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Connell School of Nursing joins alliance to boost veterans care

Two VA medcial centers and six schools of nursing form consortium

Kathleen Sullivan
Office of Public Affairs

CHESTNUT HILL, MA (March 2009) -- The Veterans Administration has joined with the Boston College Connell School of Nursing (CSON) and several other area nursing schools to form the Northeast Region VA Nursing Alliance (NERVANA) to better serve today's war veterans. The nature of war has changed, say organizers, and today's soldiers, more so than previous generations, are surviving battle but often with long-term injuries of increased severity.

NERVANA brings together two VA medical centers, the VA Boston Healthcare System and the Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital in Bedford, Mass., with six Boston area schools of nursing to provide a venue for nursing students to provide care for veterans. The alliance also presents a forum for clinical and academic partners to share insights about the care of veteran patients and to generate ideas for advancing nursing practice, education and research. 

"Med students have routinely rotated through VA hospitals, but nationwide this has not been the case with nursing students," said CSON Carroll Professor of Nursing Judith Vessey, part of the team that established the alliance, helping to set up the parameters and secure funding. "This partnership will give nursing students access to patients with unique needs and to a healthcare system not run like other hospitals."

Vessey works one day a week at the VA Boston Healthcare System (VABHS) conducting research on patient safety. "The standard of care at the VA is top notch. The VA is a national leader in patient safety," she added.

In addition to BC, the other college and university partners in the consortium are Northeastern University, Regis College, Simmons College, University of Massachusetts-Boston and UMass-Lowell.

"This is a wonderful opportunity for BC and all the academic institutions," added CSON Clinical Placement Specialist Chris Benson, who will oversee the clinical rotation placements of undergraduate and graduate nursing students in the VABHS locations in Jamaica Plain, West Roxbury and Brockton and at the VA in Bedford.

On March 17, Boston College hosted the inaugural session of NERVANA's colloquia series on "Care of the American Veteran."

CSON Dean and Prof. Susan Gennaro offered welcoming remarks along with VABHS Chief of Staff Dr. Michael Charness and VABHS Associate Director for Nursing/Patient Services Cecilia McVey, a BC alumna, who was instrumental in bringing Boston College into the consortium.

At the session, nursing students, faculty and practitioners heard from Dr. Henry Lew, who discussed current research on the complexity of pain and other persistent problems for veterans suffering from traumatic brain injury, and from Clinical Nurse Specialist Kelly Skinner who described the role of nurses in caring for the veteran with spinal cord injury.