Program helps military medical personnel with jobs at local facilities

LA JOLLA, Calif. - A pilot program is allowing San Diego military veterans to help save lives in local emergency rooms.

As former Navy corpsmen, Kevin Matzke and Michael Santana know emergency medicine first hand. Both served with Marine units in Iraq and Afghanistan, but both had difficulty transferring their skills into a civilian job.

"It would have required years of schooling and that would have been a challenge for my wife and I," Matzke said.

Matze wanted to stay in the Navy, but force reductions forced him out.

At about the same time, the Department of Veterans Affairs started something called the Intermediate Care Technician program, which sought former corpsmen and medics to work in emergency departments.

"They can do everything from applying splints to suturing lacerations, take blood or start IVs, something that would require taking a nurse or doctor away from the more urgent things they're needed for," said Nancy Howerton, VA emergency room nurse manager.

The ICTs, many of whom are attending school to become certified, work under the supervision of a doctor or nurse.

Former corpsman Michael Santana, who retired from the Navy after 20 years, found another benefit to the program.

"We're able to work with our brother and sister veterans again, and that's the icing on the cake," he said.

The program is currently being evaluated with the hope of creating permanent ICT positions throughout the VA health care system.


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