To begin, SCP Health thanks and honors all our country’s veterans for their remarkable selflessness and brave service. We are humbled by their commitment and respectful of the sacrifices they’ve made to protect and defend our nation and world. To all veterans, we are forever grateful.
We also want to take the opportunity this Veterans Day to highlight two facts: A large number of veterans re-enter civilian life every year, and an even larger number of healthcare positions need to be filled.
Beyond just the obvious supply and demand equation, we believe that veterans are uniquely equipped to understand and expertly handle the challenges and opportunities that define healthcare. And aside from just offering career opportunities, we believe that hospitals are excellently positioned to be a strong support system to veterans.
Why Hire a Veteran?
According to a CNN report, the United States will need to hire 2.3 million new healthcare workers by 2025 to take care of the aging population. The deficit isn't limited to doctors, either, but also includes professions such as home health aides, medical and lab technicians, nurses, and nurse practitioners, among others.
That means the 200,000 men and women leaving U.S. military service every year to return to civilian life have ample opportunity to find a fulfilling career in healthcare.
Veterans, particularly those who have been deployed, have a wealth of knowledge, experience, leadership skills, and forward-thinking perspectives, which make them ideal candidates for a job in healthcare. They are also resilient, disciplined, dedicated, and mission-driven.
For those with a military medicine background, veterans are often able to practice more independently and calmly in higher stress, traumatic situations, and with higher-acuity patients.
For those with an administrative background, veterans are trained to have a team mentality and incredible work ethic, deal wisely with stressful situations, and persevere through setbacks.
Challenges Veterans Face in Entering the Healthcare Profession
Despite the apparent wealth of opportunities available to veterans, getting a career is currently easier said than done—in healthcare as well as other industries.
A 2016 study by the Center for Health Workforce Studies, University of Washington, listed several formidable challenges: navigating complex benefits, translating military education and training to meet civilian academic requirements, meeting credentialing requirements, and overcoming limited communication and knowledge about healthcare career opportunities.
Navigating complex benefits: The study said that many veterans are eligible to receive educational benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs. However, understanding which resources are available isn’t always obvious.
Translating military education and training to meet civilian academic requirements: Veterans frequently receive an education while in the military, but not all civilian educational institutions recognize the value of that.
Meeting credentialing requirements: While most active-duty officers in healthcare professions have recognizable civilian counterparts, many, such as military medics and corpsmen, do not. This creates another barrier for veterans seeking to translate their military medicine experience into the credentialing requirements of civilian medicine.
Overcoming limited communication and knowledge about healthcare career opportunities: Many civilian and military career services and national job programs focus on short-term education and training that lead to rapid job placement, but which lack long-term career paths.
Efforts to Remove Barriers Faced by Veterans
With America’s looming shortage of clinical professionals, healthcare industry professionals must work to understand and break down the barriers to veterans getting into healthcare careers. The good news is that much can, and is, being done.
Legislative and non-legislative action is being taken to streamline transitional academic programs, give vets more exposure and connection to other vets in the healthcare industry, and help veterans understand their benefits, such as those contained in the GI Bill.
The industry can also emphasize building hospital cultures that embrace different types of experience and support any transitional struggles vets may have coming back into civilian life.
Healthcare teachers and education programs also need to ensure that veterans feel supported if they do require more education before taking on a new career. It can be disorienting to go from a very structured military environment to campus living, balancing family and work with educational demands.
How Hospitals Can Successfully Recruit, Hire, and Retain Veterans
The American Hospital Association offers this checklist for hospitals that wish to hire veterans:
Assess Needs and Establish the Business Case
Hiring veterans into your hospital or healthcare system must be based on an assessment of your workforce needs: Do you know what your current and future needs are? Do you understand how retirements or turnover are impacting your hiring decisions?
Hospitals must understand the veteran population within their community, primarily how and when to recruit. Also, hospitals need to be proactive in their approach to hiring veterans, connect with local and national community entities serving veterans, and become known as an employer of veterans.
Helping a newly hired veteran adjust to a civilian work environment is one of the significant challenges to onboarding and retention. In the military, service members are accustomed to seeking assistance from a sponsor or mentor who is assigned to help them navigate military life. Consider creating a similar mentorship program to foster trust and comfort.
Providing Ongoing Support
HR staff must be ready to provide resources and ongoing support for veteran employees, including information about education bridge programs for veterans seeking to advance professionally.
How Hospitals Can Give More Than a Career to Veterans
Lastly, hospitals must be aware that not all veterans will want an administrative or clinical career in civilian healthcare organizations. Nevertheless, as a cornerstone of communities, hospitals have a responsibility to support veterans as they transition to civilian life. Here are a few ways to start:
Train Providers to Understand and Care for Veterans Needs
All veterans are changed by their time in service and deserve both respect and support. However, for those who have seen combat, the 18-hour flight home is not nearly enough time to process the drastic shift that is about to hit them.
In the words of SCP Health Executive Vice President and veteran Tim Molyneux, “One minute you’re getting shot at and the next you’re getting honked at on the interstate—it’s entirely disorienting. Your brain just can’t process the change that quickly. It takes time—and veterans need space and understanding to acclimate back into American society. And to be honest, you never fully do.”
One way that hospitals can build this safe space for veterans is to train their medical staff to recognize symptoms of trauma experience or PTSD, know how to create calming environments, and do their best to relate to vets and guide them to the appropriate care.
Many laws changed this year enabling veterans to go to non-VA urgent cares or see non-VA doctors at the VA’s expense (given certain driving distance/wait time stipulations), so it is even more important that all hospital staff, but specifically clinical patient-facing roles, are equipped to provide both exceptional care and meaningful, comfortable experiences to veterans.
Recommend and Connect with Transition Support Associations
While building relationships with local veteran organizations is very important, hospitals should also partner with national transition support associations to find potential job candidates among returning veterans. Additionally, hospital staff should be well-versed in both community and national organizations so that they can recommend these services to veterans that they meet and treat.
We encourage hospitals to learn about organizations in their communities and get to know these national associations as well:
Resources are available through the Transition Assistance Program sponsored by the Department of Defense, Department of Labor, and VA. Also, a variety of programs and resources are offered within this program. You can access more information on the DoDTAP website.
The VA runs a national network of State Veterans Affairs Offices that offer local resources to veterans.
UNITE US is a free platform connecting current military service members, veterans, and their families to transformative resources and opportunities in their local communities.
Blue Star Families offers a platform where military family members can join with civilian communities and leaders to address the challenges of military life. Blue Star Families includes active duty, National Guard, Reserve, wounded, transitioning service members and their families from all ranks and services, as well as veterans and civilians.
Offer Support in Mental Healing
While physical healing is often a piece of recovering from military service, many veterans are searching for improvement in their mental health state as well. Hospitals can be a meaningful part of that journey. They can:
- Ensure that onsite or virtual counseling is provided for veterans that they employ
- Create programs or groups meant to encourage and unite veterans
- Refer patient veterans in need of help to mental health professionals specializing in trauma, PTSD, etc.
- Cultivate a safe space for mental health conversations and build a culture that nurtures the recovery process
The need to curb the physician and nurse shortage has never been greater—and our commitment to helping veterans find rewarding careers should be equally as pressing. Though healthcare will not be the right path for all veterans, hospitals can play a significant part in celebrating and encouraging veterans—both by providing them with jobs and being a part of their support system.
This Veterans Day, SCP Health is excited to continue partnering with those who have nobly served our country. Our core values—Agility, Courage, Collaboration, and Respect—guide the behavior of our organization and shape our culture. They also closely resemble the values that are held across the various branches of America’s armed services.