How Military Service Affects Veterans’ Health: What All Nurses Need to Know

By Sylvia Foley, AJN senior editor

Photo (c) Associated Press Photo (c) Associated Press

“The war tried to kill us in the spring,” says John Bartle, the narrator of The Yellow Birds, Kevin Powers’s acclaimed novel about two U.S. soldiers serving in Iraq. “I know now that everything that will ever matter in my life began then.” The same might be said by many war veterans. The effects of military service, especially on veterans’ health, vary greatly and can be lasting. And with most veterans seeking care through non-VA channels, it’s imperative that civilian nurses have some knowledge of the health issues veterans face.

In this month’s CE, “Enhancing Veteran-Centered Care: A Guide for Nurses in Non-VA Settings,” authors Barbara Johnson and colleagues describe a wide range of veterans’ health concerns and provide guidance for civilian nurses caring for these patients.

Overview: There are currently 22.5 million living U.S. military veterans, and this number is expected to increase dramatically as military personnel return from Iraq and Afghanistan. Although honorably discharged veterans may qualify for health care through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), only about 25% of all veterans take advantage of this benefit; a majority seek services in non-VA settings. It’s imperative for nurses in all civilian care settings to understand the impact that military service has on veterans’ health.

This article provides an overview of veterans’ unique health care issues, focusing particularly on traumatic brain injury, polytrauma, hazardous exposures, chronic pain, posttraumatic stress disorder, military sexual trauma, substance use disorders, suicide, and homelessness. Evidence-based assessment tools and treatment guidelines for these health issues are discussed.

A resource table provides telephone numbers and Web sites offering tools, educational materials, and veteran services. A second table provides detailed veteran-centered health assessment and screening questions.

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July 3rd, 2013|Nursing|1 Comment

Walkers

Peggy McDaniel, BSN, RN, an occasional contributor to this blog, works as a clinical liaison support manager of infusion, and is currently based in Brisbane, Australia.

800px-Billiards_balls By Andrzej Barabasz (Chepry)/via Wikimedia Commons

I see, crossing my path as I ride my bike along the beach, a man in his mid-20s with sandy, sun-streaked blond hair and a long sharp nose that’s a dark, angry red. His gait is deliberate, arms and legs moving in sharp angles. Occasionally I’ve seen him sitting along the path, eyes staring out across the sea, chin on fist, always alone. As my bike glides by, I glance over at his face, which lacks all expression.

It occurs to me that the reason, perhaps, that I take notice of this man is because he reminds me of a patient I once had—Charles (not his real name)—who shared that expressionless gaze and deliberate gait, one that took him nowhere in particular as he covered miles every day.

I was working as an inpatient psych nurse and attending school to finish my BSN degree. Charles was intermittently admitted to our unit. He lived on the street, for the most part, and since I lived downtown, I’d occasionally notice him walking. It’s been too long for me to remember what brought him into the hospital. I’m sure it was a variety of things. A person had to be a danger to themselves or others to stay very long in the unit, […]

February 15th, 2013|nursing perspective|4 Comments