Coming home from war
LisaMarie Wands, RN, PhD is the author of the current “Editor’s Pick” article titled “No One Gets Through It OK”: The Health Challenge of Coming Home from War. In her mixed-methods study, Dr. Wands explored not only the experience of student veterans coming home from war, but ways they have used to overcome the challenges they face. Dr. Wands shared this background about her work:
After serving military duty, coming home is a much-anticipated and usually joyous occasion; however, the process of reintegrating into previously-known, civilian-world relationships and environments is often fraught with struggle for veterans. Training, deployment experiences, and time inevitably change the brave persons who voluntarily serve our country through military service, while their family, friends, and communities also change with the passage of time. Reconciliation between these old-but-new entities requires effort in often unanticipated ways, and seeking assistance with encountered difficulties may not be intuitive for the individuals navigating the difficult journey of reintegration. Likely influenced by the learned military mindset that individuals should be strong and self-sufficient, veterans often rely on intrinsic processes to overcome the challenges they face during their experience of coming home. Necessity, so the saying goes, is the mother of invention; couple this with resourcefulness and determination developed during military duty, and it reasonably follows that veterans will strive to independently rise up to meet the challenges before them. Paying attention to these inherent responses is a logical place to gather information that could potentially guide the formation of interventions delivered by healthcare providers, including nurses who as a collective discipline have not strongly articulated our relationship with this group of vulnerable persons.
I was extremely fortunate to have engaged with a group of student veterans who were willing to share their stories of coming home with me. Recruitment efforts for this study were challenging, which I believe suggests veterans’ reluctance and/or inability to articulate their experiences of either deployment or reintegration. As a unique population, I think student veterans can teach us a great deal about caring for veterans in a variety of settings, and I am tremendously grateful for the experience of listening to their stories and now sharing them with the nursing community.
We invite you to read her article, and share it with others — providers who work with returning veterans, and returning veterans and their families. You can access the article at no charge on the ANS Web site while it is featured! Add your comments and responses here!
LisaMarie…What a wonder contribution to education. As a former US Army veteran, and now as a nurse educator, I see many returning to school yet struggling to “fit in.” We need to understand the stress that the war has placed on these individuals including PTSD and anxiety disorders just to name a couple. How can we help them cope? What serves are available on our campuses to assist them in their transition from soldier to civilian student? How do we get them finances…VA funding is time consuming process. Our community college campus is in the same town as a large US Air Force base. We are looking at developing a “Military Center” to centralize our serves for this set of students. I believe this is only the beginning though. All faculty and staff need to be educated on how to assist this set of valuable students. Thank you for doing this study.
Thank you for the comments, Patty. I feel that there are opportunities here for outreach to veterans who have returned to school. Evidence shows that less than half of those eligible to receive VA healthcare services have actually taken advantage of those services for a wide range of reasons. As students, veterans have access to healthcare, mental and physical, that are not connected with the military or VA and, therefore, might be easier to access; however, as you said, the clinicians in these facilities need education about the unique nature of what it means to be a veteran. I think engaging veterans in efforts to create avenues to meet their needs is the key to successful implementation of services.
Having recently had the opportunity to visit with college-age women who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan as pilots, I am reminded of the importance of the work that Dr. Wands is doing. There is so much more we need to know about smoothing the transition from military service to home. I look forward to seeing the ongoing research in this area.