To Know Them Is to Care For Them Better

Brief Highlights of a College-Sponsored Utah Honor Flight

This year the BYU College of Nursing celebrated a decade of offering the veteran section of the clinical practicum for Public and Global Health Nursing—a unique class dedicated to helping nursing students learn how to serve and care for veterans. The college marked this occasion by cosponsoring an Honor Flight in May that allowed 17 veterans to visit and reflect at their war memorials in Washington, DC. The Utah Honor Flight, a Utah-based nonprofit, sponsored the remainder of the flight (33 veterans). The national Honor Flight organization has 127 hubs in 41 states and has included more than 98,500 veterans in the program since 2005; the Utah group has sent 500 veterans since 2013.

“When the course began in 2005 BYU had the only nursing program in the country that dedicated a semester to caring for veterans,” says associate teaching professor Ron Ulberg. “Other nursing schools are now pushing for veteran-care classes, but the BYU program certainly leads the way.”

Associate dean and teaching professor Dr. Kent Blad (MS ’99) believes the veteran population needs to be understood the most. “As a nurse you may encounter patients in the hospital from Tonga, Ecuador, or Taiwan—other locations our global health students learn from,” says Blad. “However, with the Gulf Wars, you are more likely to care for a veteran with little difference in age, ability, and need; they may be no older than the caregiver. Learning who they are and what they have experienced will help a nurse to better care for them.”

Blad and Ulberg—both veterans themselves—instruct the veteran section each spring term, in which nursing students are taught how to care for the veteran population and then spend a week in Washington, DC, learning firsthand from various veterans and veteran groups, historical sites and clinical settings.

Last fall these professors participated in an Honor Flight, and at its conclusion, they desired that nursing students have the opportunity to serve as program guardians—providing constant companionship to each veteran as well as offering hygiene, restroom, medicinal, and other support.

“We thought, ‘How better to expose our students to the unique culture of our veterans than to have them spend three days learning from and serving these individuals?’” says Blad. Through the help of a grant from the university and donations from caring alumni and friends of the college, funds were obtained to cover the cost for both the sponsored veterans and for the students and support staff.

Watch Utah Honor Flight in 60-seconds video

Read more about the three-day experience as additional posts on this blog.

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