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Developing Military to Civilian Accelerated/Bridge Programs in Healthcare


Recent reports continue to highlight the ongoing workforce shortages facing the national healthcare industry in the coming decade, particularly within nursing. The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce projects a shortage of roughly 193,000 nursing professionals by 2020, despite a growing supply of nursing graduates in recent years (Carnevale, Smith & Gulish, 2015). In addition, national demand for allied health professionals(1) is expected to grow by around 30% between 2010 and 2020 (Carnevale, Smith, Gulish & Beach, 2012, p. 35). Demand is particularly acute for emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics, which are expected to see a 24% increase in demand (around 58,000 added jobs) between 2014 and 2024 (U.S. Department of Labor, 2015). 

At the same time, in 2012 the U.S. Department Defense estimated that around 85,000 members of the military served in healthcare support occupations, including Army medics, Navy corpsmen, and Air Force medical technicians. Many of these service members may be interested in continuing to do similar work when they transition to civilian careers, and their previous training and experience position them to meet some of the critical healthcare demands facing the country.


The federal government has acknowledged, however, that it is often difficult for veterans to translate their military training and experience into the formal credentials, certifications, and licensure necessary to attain related employment as civilians, including within the healthcare sector (Executive Office of the President of the United States, 2013). Because educational opportunities that recognize a veteran’s prior military learning are not always available and often limited, these veterans must typically repeat the training they received during their service. Not only is this redundancy a waste of time and money for the veteran pursuing further education but it is also a 1 Allied health professionals are defined by the Association of Schools of Allied Health Professionals (ASAHP) as healthcare professionals who “deliver services involving the identification, evaluation, and prevention of diseases and disorders; dietary and nutrition services; and rehabilitation and health systems management” (“What is Allied Health,” 2015). potential misuse of taxpayers’ money since the government ends up funding the same education twice: once through the Department of Defense’s initial training, and a second time if the veteran makes use of the government-funded GI Bill (National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, 2015).

A number of federally mandated programs have been established to try and address these challenges across various military occupations and their civilian counterparts. Most of these initiatives, however, have been geared towards either implementing large scale federal or state policy changes (NGA Center, 2015) or altering the initial training that military personnel receive to include civilian certifications (e.g., the Department of Defense’s Credentialing and Licensing Pilot Program). Another route is to encourage postsecondary institutions to provide alternative and accelerated pathways for returning veterans, particularly in the healthcare field.

Some colleges are already working to create more efficient military to civilian educational transitions, by recognizing and providing credit for the training and experience that Army medics have already received. These types of programs are sometimes referred to as accelerated or bridge programs. They are referred to in this report as veterans accelerated/bridge programs (VABPs) (see box on next page).

This report highlights some of the VABPs that have been developed around the country. Specifically, the report will focus on civilian healthcare VABP options for former U.S. Army medics—Military Occupational Code (MOC) 68W, Army healthcare specialist. We will also touch on military to civilian transition opportunities for other military healthcare support occupations, including Navy corpsmen (MOC: HM-0000) and the Air Force aerospace medical service apprentices (or medical technicians, MOC: 4N0X1). These three healthcare occupations are among the military’s top 10 most-populated Military Occupational Specialties (MOC’s) (U.S. Department of Defense, 2013, p.21). The primary focus in this report is Army medics. While Army medics make up well over half (58%) of the military’s healthcare support personnel (U.S. Department of Defense, 2013, p. 23), they may not always have access to the same VABP approaches as their Navy and Air Force counterparts because their training is viewed as more field-focused as opposed to training in clinical settings.

The report begins with a brief overview of the standard training that Army medics receive and the ways in which this training compares to the learning outcomes expected of various occupations within the civilian healthcare field.

The report then provides a summary of two different methods that might be used to award Army medics credit for the learning that they have already completed: individual assessment of prior learning and a “crosswalk” approach. The report then examines various VABPs nationwide that are utilizing these methods in order to successfully transition former Army medics or other military healthcare personnel into civilian healthcare careers. Finally, it outlines relevant trends across a number of these programs, the implications of those trends for institutions wanting to develop similar VABP models, and recommendations for the field.

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