This is an archived article that was published on in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Nurses and educators, including the dean of the University of Utah College of Nursing, were in Philadelphia Wednesday to help launch an initiative to better train nurses to care for veterans.

More than 150 state and national nursing organizations and more than 500 nursing schools committed to First Lady Michelle Obama and Second Lady Jill Biden that they will teach the nation's 3.1 million nurses and nursing students about the particular needs of veterans and their families.

Penny Kaye Jensen, a family nurse practitioner working in primary care at the George E. Wahlen Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Salt Lake City, was also at the launch in Philadelphia.

Jensen is president of the 148,000-member American Academy of Nurse Practitioners and represented that group.

Nurse practitioners play a "vital role in addressing the health care needs of veterans and active service members who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, depression and other serious combat-related issues," Jensen said, according to a statement from the group. The group's goal is to remain "in step with this demand," she said.

Nurses and other medical professionals in the VA health system have training in mental health issues, but most veterans seek care outside the VA system. More than 300,000 veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have suffered from invisible wounds, PTSD and traumatic brain injury, according to the White House.

Since 2000, more than 44,000 of those troops have suffered at least a moderate-grade traumatic brain injury. 

"Whether we're in a hospital, a doctor's office or a community health center, nurses are often the first people we see when we walk through the door. Because of their expertise, they are trusted to be the frontline of America's health care system," Mrs. Obama said, according to a news release from the White House.

Dean Maureen R. Keefe said the U. College of Nursing's endorsement of the pledge builds on its long-standing commitment to prepare nurses to care for military service members, veterans, and their families.

"Five years ago, the University of Utah College of Nursing became one of the first nursing programs in the country to launch a VA Nursing Academy, in partnership with the Salt Lake VA Medical Center, to recruit VA nurses into our programs and collaborate to improve practice, research and education surrounding military culture and combat-related conditions," Keefe said, according to a news release from the college.