Veteran patients need nurses who understand their struggles

Nurses in all practice settings likely will have veteran patients — many of whom have special healthcare needs.

The U.S. veteran population was about 20.4 million strong in 2016, according to a Fact Tank blog published by Pew Research. Among them are men and women from all walks of life, ranging in age from 18 to 80 and beyond, who served in the military during peacetime or wartime, including World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam or the Gulf War era.

Have you served?

Lt. Col. (Ret.) Jennifer Korkosz, APRN

Jennifer A. Korkosz, DNP, APRN, WHNP-BC, Lt. Col. (Ret.), U.S. Air Force, said one of the most important questions nurses can ask patients is, “Have you ever served in the military?”

The simple question provides important insight for optimally caring for veteran patients, said Korkosz, author of the Relias continuing education course, “Meeting the Healthcare Needs of America’s Military Veterans.”

The question is so important that the American Academy of Nursing built an initiative around it. The Have You Ever Served in the Military? initiative focuses on improving the health of veterans and offers providers, including nurses, important information about what to ask and what to look for when caring for veteran patients.

“Healthcare providers can go on the website for information about possible exposures that former military members might have had and things that they might be at higher risk for than the general population,” Korkosz said. “Asking the question is the greatest way to open the door and really start that conversation.”

Health and well-being concerns

Among the general areas of concern for all veterans, according to, are post-traumatic stress disorder, military sexual trauma, blast concussions and traumatic brain injuries. Other concerns are several types of exposures, including radiation, nuclear weapons, Agent Orange and more.

The website offers information specific to when veteran patients might have served. For example, veterans and families stationed at North Carolina’s Camp Lejeune from Jan. 1, 1957, to Dec. 31, 1987, were exposed to chemical contaminants in the groundwater, putting them at increased risk for certain cancers and other conditions. Veterans of the Vietnam War were exposed to hepatitis C before 1992, and those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan might have been exposed to infectious diseases from bug bites.

Korkosz, who recently retired from the U.S. Air Force after 27 years as a nurse and nurse practitioner in active duty and the reserves, said some of the biggest health concerns among military members are musculoskeletal injuries and associated pain, substance abuse problems and PTSD.

Veterans also are at much higher risk than the general population for suicide, she said. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, in its 2019 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report, said veterans are twice as likely to die by suicide as civilians. And while veterans make up 14% of all suicides, the report said, they make up on 8% of the U.S. population.

Another common health concern, especially among active or recently active military personnel is physical stress.

“The military forces are …read more

Read full article here: