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To bridge the gap of differentiating medical proficiencies of Navy Corpsmen and Army 68 Charlie/Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN), Sailors are participating in a newly-revised Army-based Phase II training program.

The program that teaches practical nursing specialists to perform preventive, therapeutic and emergency nursing care procedures is now available to Sailors for the first time at Walter Reed Bethesda. After completing the requirements of the year-long course and passing a national licensure examination, students will be credentialed as LPNs.

Four Sailors assigned to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) joined the 21 Soldiers and seven Army Reservists March 3 at San Antonio Army Medical Center in Fort Sam Houston, Texas. During the first phase of the 54-week pilot program, they learned anatomy and physiology, pathophysiology as well as microbiology. On May 27, the 32 students arrived at WRNMMC for Phase II.

Throughout the second-half of the course, students will obtain clinical hours in medical, surgical and specialty areas such as Medical and Surgical Intensive Care Units along with the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. The future LPNs will further attend training at Fort Belvoir Community Hospital, Va., according to Army Sgt. 1st Class Steven Brown, Phase II Senior Enlisted Leader and instructor for the course at Walter Reed Bethesda.

“This is a phenomenal opportunity for these junior Corpsmen and Soldiers to collaboratively work together for a common goal, to be the best licensed practical nurses the Navy and Army have to offer,” said Army Maj. Jeff Hillis, Deputy Director for the Phase II site. “The in-depth quality of didactic instruction, coupled with a robust clinical experience, attests to Walter Reed Bethesda’s flagship of healthcare mantra.”

Hillis indicated the joint-effort pilot program is the first of its kind in the history of the practical nurse course, and is designed to advance the skillset of both groups of service members toward completion.

“This is a good place to learn and grow,” WRNMMC Director Brig. Gen. (Dr.) Jeffrey B. Clark told students June 5. “I also think it’s a good place to develop as a service member, as a Soldier or a Sailor.”

Clark encouraged the students to revel and take full advantage of the joint setting of Walter Reed Bethesda with “Army, Navy, [Marine and] Air Force, working as one team.”

“We’re very glad to have you here … proactively, patient-friendly [and] actively looking for ways we can make the patient experience as positive as we can,” he added.

Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class-Select Charla Watson said she was glad to be one of the first Sailors to participate in a training program that will provide them the opportunity to attain credentials as Licensed Practical Nurses.

“It was a lot of corpsmen that fought for this position, and we were selected accordingly, and I couldn’t be more excited to be here,” said the Sailor.

Watson said she and her three Navy peers were selected among a group of 60 Walter Reed Bethesda corpsmen who submitted applications, and 20 who interviewed before a board of directors for the program that included senior enlisted LPNs. Each candidate submitted letters of recommendation as well as an application package. Physical Training (PT) and Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) scores were also required.

“We had to be a Quad Zero Corpsman, which means we didn’t have a specialty yet,” she explained. “This is something I think all of us wanted to do and to open it up for future corpsmen is going to be our goal.”

Joining the Sailors is Army Spc. Alicia Griffin, a combat medic who reclassified to become an LPN. She said the pilot program is the first course she has taken with Sailors in her four years of active duty in the Army.

“It’s great. I like it,” said Griffin, who explained her corpsmen classmates share the same military discipline as Soldiers, and agreed they are basically the same — they just wear different uniforms.

The 32 students form the fourth LPN class held at Walter Reed Bethesda since 2011. The current class is tentatively scheduled to complete the pilot program March 27, 2015.