January 18, 2008

Jennifer Tanner
Communications Specialist

Three Students Make History for VSU Nursing and the Air Force

VALDOSTA - Crystal Hughes, Michael Jessup and Jacqlyn Sanchez may look like average nursing students, taking traditional classes and studying for difficult tests; however, these three are anything but typical. They are enlisted staff sergeants in the United States Air Force who are participating in a new program designed to address a nursing shortage by educating highly qualified enlisted personnel and commissioning them into the Nursing Corps upon graduation.

The Nursing Enlisted Commissioning Program allows selected participants to attend college full-time and earn a bachelors degree in nursing, while remaining on active duty and retaining full pay and allowances. Awarded up to $15,000 in scholarship funding to cover all tuition and books, each student’s job becomes obtaining a nursing degree from an accredited program as well as assisting at the school’s AFROTC detachment during school breaks. Following graduation, participants must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX) and complete training at the USAF Commissioned Officer Training School, before receiving their assignment.

To be accepted into the new program, candidates must be active duty (E-4 and above), a US citizen, commissioned by age 42 and worldwide qualified. They must also meet all requirements for commissioning, have met all prerequisites for a complete academic review and have completed 59 semester hours of graded college coursework from a regionally accredited college or university.

“The NECP is a perfect opportunity for enlisted personnel with an interest in the medical field to expand their career options,” Capt. Tim Bazzle, AFROTC Unit Admissions Officer, said. “Enlisted personnel are normally restrained to a particular area of technical expertise, but as officers in the Nursing Corps, these students will really see a lot of opportunities open up for them.”

The NECP began fall semester 2007 with only eight future nurses. An additional selection board chose SSgt. Hughes, SSgt. Jessup and SSgt. Sanchez to be three of only 25 Air Force-wide to pursue nursing degrees through the new program this spring. All three were stationed at Moody Air Force base prior to the assignment change and are now enrolled full time at VSU, taking classes like pharmacology and basic concepts in holistic nursing.

SSgt. Hughes has spent her military career in the medical field as a medical service craftsman and an Emergency Medical Technician. The mother of two believes she has found her calling in nursing, specifically obstetrics, and looks forward to helping address the USAF nursing shortage. In gaining a higher level of education, she plans to better herself as a person and become a skilled officer for the USAF.

A Jacksonville, Fla. native, SSgt. Jessup, loving husband and father of four, has spent his military career as a C-130 crew chief and instructor. He has always had an interest in the medical field, and considered this new program the perfect road to establishing a new career, through which he could better provide for his family. Jessup holds two degrees, an A.S. in Aerospace Technology and an A.S. in General Studies, and he hopes to serve as a flight nurse in the USAF and obtain a nurse practitioners license.

SSgt. Sanchez began her military career as an Aerospace Ground Equipment Mechanic before moving into an administrative position. A mother of two and wife of USAF electrician, Jose Sanchez, she loves to care for others and longs for the excitement of critical care and the opportunity to save lives. She looks forward to continuing her education and becoming a registered nurse or a nurse practitioner in the USAF.

Hughes, Jessup and Sanchez now embark on an exciting journey through which they will acquire a Bachelor of Nursing from VSU and commission into the USAF, which will open them to a multitude of new career options.

"The NEC Program allows exceptional enlisted Airmen an opportunity to follow their dream of becoming a nurse,” Sanchez said. “I am extremely grateful to have been given this opportunity and will use it to its full extent."

Prior to the establishment of the NECP, their dreams would not be easily achieved. A win-win for students and the USAF, exceptional students like these three will fill a void with qualified nurses. As one of the first schools to educate via the NECP, VSU and its first three students are helping to make history. If the program is successful, there will be a steady supply of qualified nurses for the USAF and a resolution to its shortage.

For more information about NECP, contact Capt. Tim Bazzle (229) 333-5954, or Capt. Dustin Hart, (229) 257-2400.

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