WASHINGTON — When Eric Smith, 26, returned home after his second tour in Iraq serving as a Navy medic, he didn’t expect to have a difficult time finding work.
While on tour, Smith had worked as a physician’s assistant in the intensive care unit (ICU), caring for patients undergoing everything from cancer to recent brain surgery. At times, he served on the front lines treating infections. He never thought the expertise he had developed in the field wouldn’t amount to a job back home — but when he returned he found that he couldn’t get a job in medicine without the right certifications.
“They beat it into your head, that you’re a veteran, [employers] want you, they know about your dependability and your training, blah blah blah,” Smith said. “That proved not to be the case. I got out in August 2008, and in September 2008 there was a big economic downturn and that changed everything. It really became: what do you have off the bat, are you able to come in and just work and do you have all the necessary certifications?”