Veteran-centred content in medical education

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Abstract

Background:

Veterans have unique experiences that warrant special consideration in health care. Unfortunately, training in veteran-centred care has not been a clear focus of medical education, and only a very small proportion of medical schools include military cultural competency in their curricula.

Methods:

We conducted an 80-minute focus group with six US veterans. Open-ended questions were used to elicit their perceptions of the health care that they receive, and how it can be improved. The audio-recording was transcribed verbatim and coded for thematic content. A phenomenological analytic approach was used to analyse the 31-page transcript and arrive at the final themes.

Results:

Former service members from various periods of conflict (e.g. World War II, Vietnam, Persian Gulf) offered key insights about how to improve veterans’ health care experiences. Veterans suggested that consideration of their previous military service would improve care. They lamented that the lack of military consciousness is a barrier to care. Finally, they suggested that clinicians pay close attention to the transition from service member to civilian, as reintegration to civilian life is a critical life experience.

Discussion:

Veteran-centred care ensures optimal health care through ease of access to services, and through positive patient–provider interactions. Being aware of military culture can help providers to contextualise veterans’ experiences and beliefs about health care seeking and illness management, particularly for invisible wounds of war, including traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

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