Accommodating the needs of groups such as veterans is an important part of healthcare education. Every patient has a unique perspective and needs. Part of the role of healthcare providers is recognizing someone’s culture, heritage, and experiences and offering them the highest level of care possible.
The Life of Returning Veterans
Combat is a challenging time for the human body and mind. A soldier is constantly exposed to death and damaging conditions. Understanding their experiences is the first step in providing suitable care. Consider the following when working with a veteran:
- Sensitivity to tone: When confronted with aggression during combat, soldiers are forced to respond with aggression. It’s important to remain calm when working with a veteran. The situation might escalate if frustration is apparent in your voice.
- Hearing loss: The number one physical impairment among veterans is hearing loss. Exposure to loud sounds from firearms, explosives, and heavy equipment all put significant strain on soldiers’ ears. A healthcare professional should speak at an appropriate volume and clarity. Rely on cues from the patient.
- Environmental exposure: Depending on where they were stationed and the work they did, soldiers may have been exposed to exotic viruses, dangerous chemicals, and radiation. Ask patients about the regions they traveled to and research the common issues and ailments for those areas.
- Rank: You wouldn’t address a doctor as Miss or a priest as Mister. They’ve earned an honorary title. It is respectful to use a veteran’s former rank as well.
- Chronic pain: Imagine hiking for a continuous eight hours. Now add 50 pounds of equipment, harsh conditions, and a high speed. Soldiers are exposed to harsh conditions and circumstances, causing a range of musculoskeletal injuries.
- Adrenaline addiction: Transitioning into everyday life means a veteran’s nervous system is no longer inundated with adrenaline. The sudden absence of adrenaline can be harsh, so veterans sometimes thrill-seek to compensate.
Healthcare professionals don’t always need to address the concerns and lifestyle of their patients, but they should be aware of their experiences and challenges.
Evan Stiger is the Marketing Coordinator at Pocket Nurse. He attended Strategies: Educational Excellence for Healthcare Providers and Educators 27th Annual conference at Penn State University. These tips were presented by Douglas Etter, Chief Communications Officer at the VA Medical Center in Lebanon, PA, in “Addressing the Special Needs of Veterans in Practice.”