Jonas Center scholars earn doctorates to improve healthcare for veterans

September 19th, 2016

By Janice Petrella Lynch, MSN, RN,

Kathy Ingelse decided to pursue her doctorate because she was profoundly affected by how many women veterans nationwide suffer from military sexual trauma. Through the support and generosity of the Jonas Center for Nursing and Veterans Healthcare, she and Andrea Barnes Grant have earned their doctoral degrees in nursing. Both focused on veteran-specific healthcare needs and continue to help veterans through their nursing practice and research.

“I wanted to become a voice for women veterans, and the Jonas Center provided me with the support and confidence to look at the broader system issues,” Ingelse said. Her research concentrates on women veterans and their mental health service needs. She received a grant from the Jonas Center through its Veterans Healthcare Program and earned a DNP in 2012 from the Oregon Health & Science University in Portland.

Ingelse, DNP, APRN, PMHNP-BC, FNP-BC, is an assistant professor at the Orvis School of Nursing, University of Nevada, Reno. Ten years ago, she started work at the Bend (Oregon) VA community-based outpatient clinic as a primary care provider and nurse practitioner, filling in for a friend on maternity leave. She chose to stay for another seven years, working as a primary care provider and then as a mental health provider after she earned certification as a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner.

Now Ingelse advocates for women veterans in the service-connected disability process, the means by which veterans claim an injury related to their military service. Once the claim is approved, the VA takes care of related physical and mental health issues.

Ingelse is proud to say she has made a difference for the many women veterans she has met who have shared their personal stories with her. She accompanies them during their 2 meetings for the initiation of the service-connected disability process, advising them on how to proceed and ensuring they receive the physical and mental healthcare they deserve. Because she is sensitive to those who have suffered military sexual trauma, she has helped some receive service-connected disability related to the trauma.

To raise awareness of the mental health needs of women veterans, Ingelse also presents her research findings at national and international public health and nursing conferences. “Whenever I speak about the needs of female veterans, the collective response is ‘We can’t believe women veterans are treated that way.’” After many of her talks, women veterans thank her for bringing attention to their issues, she said.

Ingelse plans on building upon the sparse literature about women veterans to “raise awareness of this very deserving and underserved population,” she said. “I hope women veterans’ voices are better heard because of those of us who question the systems that have not been designed to serve them.”

Grant, PhD, ARNP-BC, is a primary care provider at the VA New York Harbor Healthcare System. She currently works in a primary outpatient care clinic at the Brooklyn campus of NYHHS, where she provides primary care to active and inactive veterans as well as their spouses. In addition, she conducts healthcare research.

Grant believes that she would not have been able to complete her doctoral degree without the scholarship from the Jonas Center, through its Nurse Leaders Scholars Program. She has the distinction of being one of the first six nurse scholars selected by the Jonas Center. The program provided her with financial and collegial support in addition to exposure to many brilliant minds throughout her academic journey, she said.

“Along with the financial support, I received exceptional encouragement and support as well as networking opportunities from the faculty and mentors, which was pivotal for my personal and professional growth and development,” said Grant. “In addition, I was connected with influential nurses who shared my research interests in medication adherence and sleep disorders.”

Grant earned her PhD from the Graduate Center, City University of New York in 2013 and published her dissertation study in the Journal of Clinical Hypertension. She is working on a research study that examines factors affecting adherence to continuous positive airway pressure in veterans with obstructive sleep apnea. Millions of people suffer from chronic ailments such as obstructive sleep apnea, and getting them to follow continuous positive airway pressure therapy has been a great challenge, she said. She hopes to help mitigate the barriers to adherence by further understanding patient-related and environmental factors affecting healthy behaviors.

“I enjoy making a difference one patient at a time, however, I have realized that in order 3 to impact change on a population level, I must conduct research,” she said. “I strongly believe that my research findings will contribute to the science of nursing and impact our patients’ care globally.”

“Scholars such as Dr. Grant and Dr. Ingelse will greatly impact upon the care we provide to our veterans by focusing their clinical expertise and their research efforts on veteran-specific healthcare issues such as TBI, PTSD, other mental health disorders related to deployments and combat, poly-trauma, loss of hearing and eyesight, military sexual trauma, spinal cord injuries and homelessness, just to name a few,” said Brigadier General (Ret) William T. Bester, senior adviser, Jonas Veterans Healthcare Program. “Additionally, those who will seek faculty positions will then be able to include veteran-specific educational training in nursing programs throughout the country.”

The military and veterans have benefited from the scholars supported by the Jonas Veterans Healthcare Program since 2008. The Jonas Center has funded 1,000 doctoral nursing scholars in all 50 states, and 300 of them, through the Jonas Veterans Healthcare Program, are focused specifically on veterans and their healthcare needs.

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