Michele Obama

Michelle Obama speaks to an audience of over 1,200 nurses, nursing students, and members of the military at the University of Pennsylvania on Wednesday (Photo by Michelle Holshue)

In celebration of the first anniversary of their Joining Forces campaign, first lady Michelle Obama and Jill Biden appeared at the University of Pennsylvania Wednesday to announce a major veteran’s health care initiative in partnership with nursing leaders around the country.

“Quite simply, nurses are the ‘front line’ of America’s health care system,” said Obama. Citing the time that nurses spend with their patients and the fact that nurses “get things done,” Obama explained that, when seeking out partners for the health-related aspects of the Joining Forces initiative, “it was clear that we needed to call on nurses.”

Obama explained that through Joining Forces, 3 million nurses will receive additional training needed to better support U.S. veterans and their families.

“It’s the least we can do for the men and women who have served our country so bravely,” she told the audience of more than 1,200 nursing and military leaders.

According to Obama, one in six veterans from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has reported symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Biden referred to combat-related issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries as the “invisible wounds of war.” Because most veterans seek care outside of the Veterans Affairs system, the Joining Forces initiative will reach nurses working in all health care settings as well as nursing students across the U.S.

At least 160 nursing professional organizations and more than 500 nursing schools have joined the initiative by pledging to enhance nursing education and increase nursing research around the diagnosis and treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injuries and other combat-related issues.

After the announcement, dozens of leaders from several nursing professional organizations and nursing schools met at the Joining Forces Leadership Summit to discuss next steps for the profession.

For more information about nurses and the Joining Forces initiative, visit the White House Press Office.