Women veterans lack access to effective health care in civilian practice

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Civilian healthcare providers need to be educated on the importance of screening women for military service and also be aware of the unique healthcare needs of this population.
Civilian healthcare providers need to be educated on the importance of screening women for military service and also be aware of the unique healthcare needs of this population.
The following article is part of The Clinical Advisor's coverage from the 2017 National Conference of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners in Philadelphia. Our staff will be reporting live on the latest news and clinically relevant practice information from leading NPs in many specialty areas. Check back for ongoing updates from AANP 2017. 

PHILADELPHIA – Greater knowledge and expertise are needed among civilian healthcare practices in providing care to women veterans, Lt Col Alicia Rossiter, NC, DNP, FNP, PCPNP-BC, FAANP, and colleagues reported at the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) 2017 National Conference.

Women are the fastest growing segment of the veteran population—about 1.8 million women are currently serving in the armed forces, and more than 220,000 have deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. A study by the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) found that women veterans had more visits to primary care and mental health clinics and a higher use of community care outside the VA. Another study found that more than half of clinician respondents were not comfortable in discussing health-related exposures and associated risks experienced by veterans and expressed unfamiliarity with referral and consultation services available to veterans.

“There is a lack of knowledge regarding the military, the military culture, and the effect of military service on the overall mental and physical health of veterans, in particular, women veterans, which leaves veterans at a significant disadvantage in regards to their overall healthcare needs,” stated the researchers. “Women veterans have unique physical and psychological healthcare needs that vary from their male counterparts, and it is important that civilian healthcare providers are educated on the importance of screening women for military service and are aware of the unique healthcare needs of this population.”

Since 2001, more than 2.8 million service members have transitioned out of the military and into civilian life. During the next five years, an additional 1 million are expected to make the same transition.

“Studies show that less than 20% of veterans are actually seen in the VA healthcare system by providers who are aware of and knowledgeable about their patient's military status and possible service-connected risk factors and exposures,” stated the study authors. “This leaves roughly 80% of veterans, many of whom are women, receiving care in the civilian sector where military status and women veteran-specific healthcare needs are unknown to providers.”

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Reference

  1. Rossiter A, Johnson H, Ling C. Women wear combat boots too—meeting the unique health care needs of women veterans in civilian practice. Presented at the American Association of Nurse Practitioners 2017 National Conference; June 20-25, 2017; Philadelphia.
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