Upstate News

November 5, 2009
Darryl Geddes 315 464-4828

Upstate Medical veterans step off in Veterans Day parade for first time

SYRACUSE, N.Y.—Upstate Medical University will be represented in the Syracuse area Veterans Parade for the first time ever, as more than two dozen veterans with Upstate connections will march in the Nov. 7 event in downtown Syracuse

“We really wanted a strong presence at this very important event,” said Edgar Johnson, Upstate’s diversity initiatives specialist and a veteran. “We proudly served our country and now proudly serve our community through Upstate’s mission.”

Upstate is also in the process of creating a Web site dedicated to the veterans working on its campus and a Veteran’s Club for students.

Upstate enjoys a strong link to healthcare for the Armed Forces. Upstate’s largest clinical partner is the nearby Veterans Administration Medical Center, where two-thirds of Upstate’s medical students have had a clinical training experience. Upstate also has a developing relationship with Fort Drum and the Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization.

Louise Pernisi, who served as an Army Corps nurse from 1985 to 1989 is one of 250 veterans now working at Upstate.

“The ability to multi-task, identify a need and step in relates to the military,” said Pernisi, who in addition to her Army Corps experience served in the Reserves for three years until fulfilling her obligation, and later joined University Hospital in 2002. She earned her master’s degree in nursing and clinical nurse specialist certificate from Upstate in 2006.

Pernisi, a medical case manager in Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation at University Hospital, created the Nursing Case Management curriculum for the College of Nursing.

Upstate is the only institution in the East to offer the case management course. Demand was greater than expected, and now it is offered twice a year instead of once. Nursing case managers who complete the course can also use it as a preparation to take a national certification exam.

Pernisi teaches the graduate level course one night a week. Case managers are registered nurses who oversee patient care needs at all levels of medical care including transition from hospitals into the community.

When the patients are injured soldiers, however, the transition can mean anything from a return to active duty to placement in a rehabilitation facility. With the ongoing U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, the military finds itself in need of more case managers.

“Every semester we get active duty staff taking the course, which teaches the fundamentals of case management,” Pernisi said. “Three civilian case managers from Fort Drum took it, as did one active duty captain.”

“Until recently, the military relied solely on social workers to handle soldiers’ transitions from hospitals,” she said. “Because case managers are RNs, they address patients’ medical issues as well as their other needs,” Pernisi said.

“At Fort Drum, case managers assist returning soldiers who have drug and alcohol and psychiatric problems as well as medical needs and try to find civilian providers to treat them,” Pernisi said.

“Case managers optimize the needs and resources,” Pernisi said. “It’s driven by managed care. Case managers help gain access to services the best and fastest way with less and less resources and without high cost.”

Pernisi said there’s a distinct advantage in having a military background when treating injured soldiers and preparing their transition out of the hospital.

“I can anticipate what they need, and I know what resources are available,” she said. “I have that knowledge of the military system. I know for instance what family services are available on post. I can cut through the paperwork because I know where to look.”

In the case of an injured soldier whose injuries warrant a leave of absence from active duty, Pernisi can advocate for them.

“I have the same language,” she said. “I know there’s no such thing as being off-duty in the military, so when I speak to their commander, I can anticipate what they need to have for a leave of absence.”

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