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Currently, the number of healthcare programs for veterans is increasing, and more focus is placed on the efficaciousness of these programs. Now, the major American nursing associations for veterans such as Military Officers Association (MOAA) and Veterans Healthcare Association (VHA) are advocating for the healthcare protection of veterans and their families (Karpf, Ferguson, & Swift, 2010).
Veterans and Their Families’ Healthcare Needs
Most veterans returned from war require multiple healthcare needs including adequate treatment of their diseases to the creation of the appropriate environment for further recovery (International Council of Nurses, 2008).
The two main types of healthcare needs that veterans need are mental and physical. The most widespread illnesses connected with these needs are the absence of an extremity and the Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) (Paquin, 2011). The first duty of a nurse is to help veterans cope with their physical pain or physical disability if they have lost a part of their body. The second duty of a nurse is to help veterans cope with their mental pain and the PTSD symptoms caused by war. The third duty of a nurse is to help veterans’ families understand how to look after them and to return them to a quiet life in society (Deyton, Hess, & Jackonis, 2008).
Nursing Advocacy Skills
One of the most important advocacy skills that nurses must have is communication skills. Nurses must quickly establish a connection with sick veterans and gain their confidence using communication skills so that they believe that the therapy the nurse provides will help them recover (Laureate Education, 2012).
Another important advocacy skill that nurses must have is problem-solving. This includes the identification of veterans’ health problems and finding ways to solve these problems. Thus, the nurse must find a solution to every health problem that occurs in a patient (Davis-Alldritt, 2011).
Thus, the role of nurses as advocates requires from them both practical and intellectual skills, as they are the only professionals who are always in direct contact with sick veterans and their families and must make crucial advocacy and medical decisions and act by the situation to help them recover (Milstead, 2016).
A Nurse’s Responsibility as an Advocate
According to the code of ethics in the American Nurses Association, a nurses’ primary duty as an advocate is to be fully committed to their patients, protect their rights, and improve their health. Moreover, they must also be committed to all the stakeholders and ensure that veterans and their families are provided with timely and comprehensive medical care (Vancouver Coastal Health, n.d.).
A vivid example of a nurse advocating for comprehensive healthcare is through media advocacy. It is a perfect method for raising important medical issues by not only informing the House and Senate but also by increasing public awareness regarding these issues. Thus, in 2010, Tracey-Lee Baker, a former army nurse organized participation of returning veterans in the Department of Defense “Yellow Ribbon” program that includes various public events involving VA staff and returned from service veterans. Currently, these events continue taking place and increasing public awareness concerning veterans’ problems (“Former army nurse,” 2010).
Another effective method of advocating for veterans’ healthcare needs is by writing letters to Congress and introducing these needs. Thus, in 2016, the Nursing Community of the U.S. sent a letter directly to Senator Merkley to Washington requesting the official recognition of Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) who serve in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) thereby ensuring that America’s veterans are provided with the high-quality health care that they deserve and need (Nursing Community, 2016).
Other means of advocating for veterans’ healthcare needs are various community activities through churches, workplaces, schools, businesses, park districts, and so on (Begley, 2010).
The importance of the nurses’ role as advocates for the veterans’ healthcare is stated in the nursing code of ethics. Their role is crucial in developing the veteran healthcare program, influencing the formulation of policies regarding this program, and providing comprehensive healthcare to veterans and their families.
Begley, A. (2010). On being a good nurse: Reflections on the past and preparing for the future. International Journal of Nursing Practice, 16(6), 525-532.
Davis-Alldritt, L. (2011). Presidential inaugural address: Advocacy, access, and achievement. Journal of School Nursing, 27(4), 249-251.
Deyton, L., Hess W. J., & Jackonis, M. J. (2008). War, its aftermath, and U.S. health policy: Toward a comprehensive health program for America’s military personnel, veterans, and their families. The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, 36(4), 677-689.
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Laureate Education (Executive Producer). (2012). The needle exchange program. Baltimore, MD: Author.
Milstead, J. A. (2016). Health policy and politics: A nurse’s guide (5th ed.). Burlington, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.
Nursing Community (2016). Letter to Senator Jeff Merkley in support of Veterans Health Care Staffing Improvement Act.
Paquin, S. O. (2011). Social justice advocacy in nursing: What is it? How do we get there? Creative Nursing, 17(2), 63-67.
Vancouver Coastal Health. (n.d.). Vancouver Coastal Health Population Health: Advocacy guidelines and resources.