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VA awards USF $3.5-million to help nurses, veterans

TAMPA — The Department of Veterans Affairs and the University of South Florida College of nursing are teaming up with the aim of boosting care for veterans and job opportunities for nurses.

The VA has awarded a $3.5-million grant to the university to establish the VA Nursing Academy at USF. The money will pay for five faculty positions for four years, according to Cass Cahill, an assistant professor at USF and a director of the new academy.

About 38,000 qualified applicants are turned away from nursing schools around the country each year, in part because of a lack of instructors, Cahill said.

The VA program's goal is to recruit more nurses to the field and specifically to attract them to jobs at VA hospitals, Cahill said.

The grant is part of a five-year, $40-million effort by the VA to team with universities near their medical centers.

Students admitted to USF under the VA program will do their clinical work at the James A. Haley VA Hospital in Tampa and, ideally, end up working there, she said.

"Our wounded warriors from Iraq and Afghanistan are coming here to Tampa, and our students are taking care of them," Cahill said.

The VA has similar agreements with 11 other universities, including the University of Florida.

"The VA Nursing Academy expands our teaching faculty, improves recruitment and retention, and creates new educational and research opportunities," U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs James B. Peake said in a statement issued Thursday.

About 1,400 students are enrolled in USF's nursing school, according to Cahill.

Jan Wesner can be reached at jwesner@sptimes.com or (813) 661-2439.

VA awards USF $3.5-million to help nurses, veterans 07/31/08 [Last modified: Friday, August 1, 2008 8:53pm]

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