Nursing students complete summer residency in veterans’ health care
Senior nursing students Pepper Bain, Amy Hahn and Amanda Ridder immersed themselves in veterans’ health care as part of their 2018 Veterans Affairs Learning Opportunity Residency (VALOR) program.
"These students have shown interest in providing nursing care for veterans,” said Interim School of Nursing (SON) Director Iris Mullins. "The VALOR program is highly competitive and professionally enriches our students with valuable clinical experience caring for those who have served our country."
Bain, Hahn and Ridder were selected for residencies at the Salem Veteran Affairs Medical Center (SVAMC). In 2018, Radford University SON students were selected to fill all three slots in the paid pre-licensure program for nursing students from a pool of almost 20 applicants.
“They are shining stars with amazing personal stories and connections to the military which made the Salem VA Medical Center a perfect fit for them,” said Sharla Cooper, SON associate director for undergraduate programs.
The senior-level nursing students were selected on a competitive basis for the program which provided them with 400 hours of experiential learning opportunities in all facets of veterans’ healthcare. The VALOR program provided them with clinical skills training and experience, exposure to interdisciplinary teams and rotation to different hospital units, such as psychiatric, progressive care, med/surg and emergency. Concurrently Bain, Hahn and Ridder designed, executed and then presented an evidence-based nursing practice project to SVAMC nursing leadership.
As part of her residency, Ridder of Roanoke worked on the psychiatric unit and said, “It was challenging. You think you know how to communicate, but you have to learn and look for new ways to help these men and women, veterans from WWII up through Afghanistan. Being there for them in emotional times was rewarding as was helping them toward feeling normal and living happy lives again.”
The value of the experience, according to Ridder, came in her heightened level of confidence as a nurse that came in what she described as “a welcoming and inviting professional environment.”
Hahn of Blacksburg, experienced the residency both as an aspiring nurse as the mother of an active duty soldier.
“I found a lot of people who care. The staff could be caring for my son and it was good to know there is a place for him,” said Hahn who is coming to the nursing profession after a career that has included experiences as a junior high school teacher and laboratory technician.
“A highlight was getting valuable experience in doing the skills of a nurse and increasing my confidence,” she said. “I feel like I can help. The residency helped me connect better with the patients who are from a distinctive culture, a kind of family with shared experiences. They feel comfortable around each other despite generational differences.”
Bain, a former Army medic and the daughter, great niece and cousin to veterans, was familiar with the culture of her patients and was encouraged by the SVAMC residency experience.
“I learned to help patients from every single nurse with whom I worked,” said Bain of Christiansburg. “I saw how they interact with patients and how nurses advocate with providers on the patients’ behalf.”
As a nurse, Bain was tasked with basic skills, such as inserting IV’s and catheters, doing blood draws and dressing wounds. She was also trained in using modern heart monitoring technology.
“It was amazing how much time and effort they invested in us,” she said. “The residency complemented what I have been doing at Radford in the classroom. It was rigorous and rewarding on so many levels.”