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A veteran is an individual who has served in the active military, naval, or air service and who was discharged or released under conditions other than dishonorable. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), there are almost 19 million veterans in the United States. Furthermore, there are around two million men and women currently serving in the uniformed services; they, too, will be veterans one day. Public health nurses and others providing care in the community must be aware of the needs, histories, and experiences of this population.
The large veteran aggregate is scattered throughout the country. These individuals can present in the health care system with unique health problems or issues associated with their experiences. Many of the services required are specific to health problems and threats directly related to the veterans’ roles or activities while in the military, but many of the problems are simply those commonly found among their nonservice member contemporaries. For example, WWII veterans will have problems associated with aging, and women veterans may have health concerns and issues because they are female.
Of note, there are health risks or threats that occur among military personnel, regardless of where or when they served. Many have experienced life-altering trauma, such as dismemberment, loss of hearing or sight, burns, or neurological conditions such as traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). Problems and health issues can be attributed to injuries incurred during combat or training, environmental exposures (i.e. extremes of temperature, radiation, chemical and air pollutants), witnessing traumatic events, and a host of other causes. In addition, mental and emotional health risks are equally important: veterans have faced many and varied stressors, such as threats to their life, loss of friends, inner conflict regarding their role in combat, survivor’s guilt, and separation from family. Some may even find the quest for peace and reintegration to be harder than fighting in a war. Unfortunately, commonly occurring problems include PTSD, experience of sexual trauma, chronic pain, substance abuse, homelessness and suicide.
Nurses working in community settings will encounter veterans in many different situations. During the assessment process, they are encouraged to include a question to elicit information on veteran status, as it may be important either with respect to underlying health problems or as a potential source for additional resources. The complex health needs and threats that are found among this population are important to understand, especially because nurses in community settings are likely to encounter the more common health threats and issues among veterans previously discussed. Nurses should understand services provided by the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) and methods and strategies to help veterans manage reintegration with civilian life. Providing person-centered and well-informed health care to the members of this very vital and deserving population is important for nurses who work in community settings and are likely to quickly become familiar with veteran patients.
Learn more and request your complimentary review copy of Community/Public Health Nursing, 7th edition here.
Additional titles including Veterans’ Health:
Medical-Surgical Nursing, 9th Edition
Psychiatric Nursing, 8th Edition
Policy & Politics in Nursing and Health Care, 7th Edition
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