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'Heroes for Healthcare' law benefits military veterans, medical systems

Wisconsin State Capitol
Posted at 10:19 AM, Mar 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-13 11:19:09-04

A new law in Wisconsin puts military veterans with medical training in action to help fight the current shortage of health care workers.

It's called "Heroes for Healthcare," a bipartisan initiative that streamlines the process for skilled veterans to provide limited health care without a license under the supervision of certain medical personnel. Previously, military veterans with medical training were required to have a license before practicing in health care.

"It really just makes complete sense when you have military medics and corpsmen with substantial, actual experience in the field," said State Senator André Jacque, (R) De Pere.

Jacque co-authored the proposal, which passed unanimously in both legislative chambers and had nearly 30 co-sponsors.

He said the training retired military members receive is equivalent to 1.5 years of nursing school.

"There's very much an understanding that these are people that have that training, that discipline, that skill set, that they're going to be the right fit for continuing in the profession," Jacque said.

"Heroes for Healthcare" is based on a program in Virginia that's helped veterans find jobs in the medical field, while simultaneously lifting pressure on health care systems during a nationwide worker shortage.

“I think this new law is a win-win," said Ann Zenk, Wisconsin Hospital Association senior vice president of workforce and clinical practice. "It recognizes veterans’ military skills and training that they received, and medical skills, and it helps grow our health care workforce faster amid increasing demand.”

Zenk said the pandemic exasperated Wisconsin's health care worker shortage, leaving gaps in frontline technical positions such as nursing and medical assistants, emergency department technicians, and health unit coordinators.

These are the types of jobs military veterans with medical training can fill.

"For someone who has served their country and the military, and now is trying to enter this civilian world, anything we can do to welcome them to our workforce, but especially our healthcare workforce, is going to be great," Zenk said.

While they're working, veterans will have a certain timeline to acquire the license for their role from the appropriate medical board.