As I write this, Veterans Day is approaching. How welcome it is to read this issue of Focus, which highlights the faculty and students who have served their country. My own years in the Navy included some of the best experiences of my career. I went on active duty from the reserves to begin a nursing research program for the Navy Nurse Corps. I worked closely with nurses stationed all over the globe and was a first-hand witness to their professionalism and dedication. Because the Navy (and all the services) fully supports lifelong education, most of the nurses had earned masters degrees and were eager to engage in research. It was an exciting time as I facilitated research studies on aircraft carriers (noise), bases (fitness assessment) and hospitals (orthopedic pain, workload, infections). It would be such a benefit to nursing science if that enthusiasm and commitment existed in our civilian health care system.
However, let us keep the health care needs of veterans uppermost in our minds as we think about Veterans Day. Many of our veterans have significant health problems due to toxic exposures, psychological trauma and battlefield or occupational injuries. I encourage you to look at a campaign organized by the American Academy of Nursing called “Have you ever served in the military?” (www.haveyoueverserved.com). This initiative exists to improve the health of veterans, and encourages us – indeed all health care providers – to ask about a patient’s military background and document it in their record. From the website, you can obtain a pocket card that explains the most common health problems a veteran may have, what additional questions one should ask, and research and policy briefs for further information.
Policy and social interventions are so important for this population. Women veterans, for example, have the highest incidence of homelessness. Think of how that impacts children. From the streets around us, we can see the toll that veterans have paid, and we must be involved in advocacy and interventions to help. Thanking them for their service is not enough.