VA helps battlefield medics earn certifications

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By Debbie Gregory.

As a convoy medic in Iraq, Mathew Vance became adept at what he calls “civil war medicine”, or, “stop the bleeding.” He perfected his life-saving medical skills during his second deployment working on a trauma helicopter. When he returned home, jobs for medics, especially medical jobs for veterans, didn’t exist.

Vance, 30, spent five months looking for a health care job when he left active duty and moved to Newport News last year with his wife, who’s in the Air Force. Additionally, he submitted more than 50 applications His work as a combat medic gave him the training and the know-how. What he lacked was the official documents that allowed him to be hired in jobs for medics.

“The civilian sector – they don’t know what we are capable of,” he said.

A new Department of Veterans Affairs program hopes to close the gap between life experience and documented know-how for the scores of veterans returning home and in search of medical jobs for veterans.

The yearlong Intermediate Care Technician program recently opened with 45 positions in 15 VA emergency rooms across the country. Now, former medics and corpsmen can work in their fields, while they earn a professional license.

Vance said the program has not only helped him professionally, it has allowed him to better help the approx. 50 veterans who enter the hospital’s emergency ward every day. With 12 beds and four nurses on duty at a time, patients often complain about the slow pace of care, Vance said. Now that the medical technicians are available to handle some of the patient care, nurses can move on more quickly to the next bed.

“I have vets saying, ‘I can’t believe how fast you got me in here,’ ” Vance said.

Officials said the licenses, in conjunction with their battlefield experience, will give veterans a complete package when they apply for medical jobs for veterans.