Magazine article American Nurse Today

A Powerful Question: "Have You Ever Served in the Military?"

Magazine article American Nurse Today

A Powerful Question: "Have You Ever Served in the Military?"

Article excerpt

COUNTLESS HISTORY AND PHYSICAL FORMS, nursing admission databases, and self-prepared health histories may be missing a critical element--the question "Have you ever served in the military?" If your patient answers "yes," you may have cracked the code of stories yet untold that can reveal a history of risks of illnesses both observed and hidden. The United States has nearly 22 million military veterans; it's crucial for healthcare providers to find out if a patient may have suffered impairment from the hazards and effects of war.

For 3 years, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden have ignited action from all sectors of society to meet the unique needs of our military service members by launching the Joining Forces initiative. Together, they are helping our troops and their families receive the recognition and support they deserve for their sacrifice to protect our country. Joining Forces has been a powerful force to create awareness in three major areas--employment, education, and wellness. Partnerships with private-sector employers are helping to create job opportunities for veterans and military spouses; schools are providing support for military-connected children who must change schools; and institutions of higher education are helping troops pursue an education after returning home.

One of the biggest challenges is promoting wellness in times of emotional, physical, and financial stress. Seeking a solution, Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Biden turned to nurses. Two years ago, they secured a commitment from more than 500 nursing schools and 150 state and national nursing organizations to educate nurses and students on how to identify and care for veterans and their families, with special emphasis on posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), depression, and other combat-related conditions.

Last fall, the nursing profession again responded. The American Academy of Nursing's (AAN) Military and Veterans Expert Panel recognized that war wounds can go undetected--partly because less than a third of veterans seek care in the Veteran's Health Administration, where clinicians are more adept at detecting service-connected conditions and consequences. Similarly, veterans who saw active duty in the National Guard and Reserve Components receive health care in the private sector once they return to civilian life. …

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