As caregivers committed to providing the best possible care to their patients, it is imperative for nurses, both at the bedside and in leadership positions, to address the unique healthcare challenges faced by California's veteran population.
The American Nurses Association\California (ANA\California) is at the forefront of this mission, striving to shed light on the issues and spearhead change. In this article, we will delve into the distinctive challenges faced by veterans accessing healthcare and the proactive steps our organization is taking to bridge the gap.
One primary challenge faced by veterans in California is that the VA Health System is not designed to cover all health expenses, especially expenses incurred outside of the military or in civilian life. Veterans then often need additional public or private health insurance to address their comprehensive healthcare needs effectively.
Reports from 2017 show utilization of Veterans Affairs (VA) healthcare services has increased significantly in the past two decades to 48%, but roughly one in five (19.7%) of veterans reported having no public or private insurance coverage in 2021. This highlights a concerning gap in the healthcare safety net for a substantial portion of our veteran population.
Unfortunately, much of this issue is uncharted territory.
A lack of information from veterans who do not use the VA system poses a critical obstacle in providing tailored healthcare solutions to this population. To address this issue, it is crucial to gain a comprehensive understanding of the sociodemographic and health profiles of veterans using healthcare in our communities.
The heart of the matter lies in the oversight during intake assessments. Hospitals, health systems, and care facilities are missing the opportunity to identify veterans and understand how their unique health needs differ from the general population. The consequence is that a large segment of our veteran population is left unattended, with their specific health requirements overlooked.
For bedside nurses, the solution starts with education. Many nurses are not equipped with the knowledge to identify veterans or comprehend the intricacies of their health needs because it is not included in their nursing school curriculum or tested during the NCLEX.
For nursing leadership, start an investigation into the size of the veteran population you serve, and push for the revision of existing policies to accommodate these crucial revisions to the intake assessment process.
For nursing education programs, incorporate this vital aspect into your curriculum, ensuring that bedside nurses are well-versed in distinguishing between the healthcare needs of veterans, service-connected families, and the lay public.
By addressing the unique challenges faced by California's veteran population and advocating for changes in our healthcare systems, nurses can make a substantial impact. Let us embrace this responsibility, ensuring that no veteran is left unnoticed and that their specific health needs are met with the same dedication and precision as any other patient under our care.
Read the backstory on ANA\California's Veterans Health Campaign.
View our campaign page to learn more about our mission.
Check out our curated list of tools, resources, and pocket cards.
ANA\California is the state chapter of the American Nurses Association. ANA\California is a 501(c)6 lobbying organization, advocating for and representing all registered nurses in the state of California, without regard to specialty or practice setting.