Two challenges face the nation that can be solved through better transitioning of military medics into civilian healthcare jobs.

One of those challenges is the underemployment of veterans returning to the U.S. after serving their country. And many will flood the marketplace in the coming years. About 1.5 million veterans are expected to leave military service in the period that started in 2016 and will end in 2020, according to the University of Washington.

The unemployment rate for veterans who began service after 2001 is around 5.1 percent, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Among female veterans, it’s 5.6 percent. Both numbers are higher than the overall unemployment number of about 4.1 percent.

Meanwhile, healthcare faces a shortage of workers in some areas. For example, the nursing shortage is expected to reach 260,000 by 2025, according to a study by published by the National Institutes of Health.

Clearly, more military veterans moving into healthcare can solve two issues at once.

Jobs For Military Medics

By the time they leave military service, most military medics have the skills needed to become an emergency medical technician (EMT), paramedic or licensed practical nurse (LPN).

All of these jobs are in demand. The number of EMTs and paramedics is expected to increase by 15 percent in the period between 2016 and 2026. The number of LPNs is expected to grow 12 percent in that same time period, with almost 89,000 new LPNs entering the workforce.

Medics also have the training to enter school and complete the education needed to become a registered nurse (RN). This typically requires earning a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Depending on the institution, military training can be transferred as credits, lowering the amount of time needed to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing.

And RNs are very much in demand. The number of RNs is projected to grow 15 percent between 2016 and 2026, with 437,000 people entering the profession. That’s more than the entire population of cities such as Minneapolis, Oakland, Tulsa and New Orleans.

Frequent Barriers

Those trained as medics in the military have many of the skills that healthcare organizations desire in their employees. They have learned to handle medical work in emergency situations and know how to administer many types of medicine.

Military veterans also leave the service with the discipline and dedication that is at the top of many employers “what they want in employees” list.

However, barriers exist for veterans who want to transition to a civilian healthcare job. Among those found in the University of Washington study included:

Navigating complex benefits. Many veterans are unware of the educational benefits they can receive from the federal government and, in some cases, state government to further their education and careers in the private sector. Factors such as length of service, deployments and disabilities can change who qualifies for which benefit.

Translating military training into civilian academic requirements. Many veterans face a situation where they have the skills and knowledge to enter the healthcare field, but find some colleges and universities will not recognize and give credit for military education.

Meeting credential requirements. Military medics typically leave the service already well-trained to become an emergency medical technician (EMT) or licensed practical nurse (LPN). However, both occupations require certification and licensure, the standards for which can vary state by state. Often, military medics will need to take courses that cover things they already know just to qualify for certification.

Not knowing healthcare opportunities. Many veterans are not told about the potential for long term careers in the civilian healthcare workforce. The study found that while many programs focus on quickly getting veterans into careers, few help veterans learn about big picture career opportunities.

Addressing the Issues

The first step for every military medic is simply knowing the opportunities. As described above, a typical military medic leaves the service with training and education that translate well into becoming an EMT, paramedic, LPN and RN.

However, the University of Washington study and the NIH study both suggest ways to make improvements.

  • Simplify the federal government programs that offer funds to veterans to further their education.
  • States should offer outreach programs to veterans that help them navigate the military-to-civilian transition.
  • Universities and colleges providing academic credit for military education and training. States such as Idaho have already done this.
  • Offering certification and licensure to qualified military medics based on their military training, something already being done in some states, including Florida.

Taking some of these steps can help veterans make the transition. For the veterans themselves, it’s best to thoroughly research all the options available in your areas, since they vary so much from state to state.

But such research is worthwhile, as a wealth of opportunity awaits veterans in the civilian healthcare industry.

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