The invisible wounds of war: Caring for women veterans who have experienced military sexual trauma

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Abstract

Purpose:

The purpose of this case study is to raise awareness about military sexual trauma (MST) and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and the physical and psychological comorbidities associated with MST.

Data sources:

Health Science Data Sources—PubMed and authors’ experiences.

Conclusions:

Women veterans are the fastest growing segment of the veteran population. Approximately 200,000 of the 2.6 million veterans who have deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation New Dawn (OEF/OIF/OND) are women. Many are seeking care in both the Veteran Administration and the civilian sector. It is estimated that upwards of 26,000 women have experienced some form of sexual assault in the military. MST can lead to multiple deleterious physical and psychological comorbidities. It is imperative that nurse practitioners (NPs) ask women about military service and utilize the Military Health History Pocket Card for Clinicians to ascertain service-connected health risks, primarily MST and PTSD. Prompt identification and intervention is key to reducing physical and psychological comorbidities.

Implications for practice:

This case study emphasizes the need for NPs to ask all women about military service and potential exposure to sexual trauma. It provides guidance on how to incorporate the Military Health History Pocket Card for Clinicians into practice.

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