Women Veterans comprise one of the fastest growing subpopulations of Veterans. Today, there are more than 2.2 million living women Veterans and 628,000 have enrolled in the VA health care system. Over the last decade, the number of women Veterans using VA health care has more than doubled. Congress passed a law called the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010, PL 111-163, Sec. 201, which mandates that VA hire independent researchers to conduct a comprehensive study of the barriers to the provision of comprehensive health care. Women’s Health Services (WHS) of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has contracted with the Altarum Institute to conduct this independent comprehensive study.
Women are a growing population of Veterans, but may underutilize VA health care because they are unaware of the services and benefits VA provides or are unaware that they are eligible for those services and benefits. Congress identified nine potential barriers to be studied, including: stigma associated with mental health care, driving distance, child care, use of integrated primary care, understanding of eligibility, perception of personal safety and comfort, gender sensitivity of providers, effectiveness of outreach and location and operating hours of health care facilities.
The study will help us better understand barriers women Veterans face accessing VA care, the comprehensiveness of care, and will improve our understanding of the long-term consequences of military deployment. The data collected will help VA to plan and provide better health care and services for women Veterans. VA is committed to ensuring all Veterans have access to the benefits and services they have earned and deserve.
The telephone surveys began in December, 2013 and will take place over the course of about nine months. This study will involve at a minimum, 400 women from each of the 21 Veteran Integrated Service Networks (VISNs) for a minimum total of 8,400 completed interviews. In concert with VA, the study has selected a random sample of women Veterans from across the country, some who have used VA health care and some who have not. The telephone survey is expected to take about 40 minutes. Collection of this data will allow the stakeholders to identify barriers to VA use, unmet need for health care, and health care delivery preferences (i.e., the features of the current VA women’s health delivery model that facilitates versus hinders access to VA care). The survey results will be compiled and presented to Congress, as the legislation requires, and will be of interest to Veterans, VA leaders, providers and policymakers.
Are you a woman Veteran? Be on the lookout for a way to help VA Women’s Health Services! You may have the chance to provide important input about the health care services you receive.
Women Veterans from across the country will be contacted as part of a nation-wide study sponsored by the VA Women’s Health Services office. This study is in response to Public Law 111-163, sec. 201 - Women Veterans Health Care Matters. This study will help VA better understand barriers to the provision of health care for women Veterans like you!
During this study, a sample of women Veterans will receive a pre-notification letter, followed by a telephone call to seek input on issues related to their healthcare services. If you get a letter or a phone call about this study, please participate and make your voice heard! It does not matter whether you have actually received care at a VA facility before; if you are a woman Veteran your opinion about health services matters. At least 8,400 women will be providing input to this study. You may be one of those, and we ask that you invest a little time to provide feedback so that YOUR VA health care can meet YOUR needs.
The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) trained over 200 health care providers in its women’s health mini-residency program in Orlando, Florida this July – marking the 1,850th provider trained in best practices for women Veterans health care over the past five years. The innovative program, which incorporates pelvic and breast exam instruction using simulation training equipment and live, trained models, is the result of a collaboration between VHA’s Women’s Health Services, VHA’s Employee Education System (EES), and Simulation Learning Education and Research Network (SimLEARN).
Developed by women Veterans health clinical experts, the mini-residency program for primary care providers continues to further VHA’s progress in reaching the goal of implementing comprehensive primary care for women at all VHA sites of care. Topics covered in the three day course included pelvic pain, breast masses, contraception, and cervical cancer screening as well as post-deployment issues and military sexual trauma. Participants rotated through a simulation training lab that is set up at the main conference site, as well as training in the simulation center, at the University of Central Florida College of Medicine.
There are currently more than 2.2 million living women Veterans. The number of women Veterans using VA health care has more than doubled in the last decade, from nearly 160,000 (Fiscal Year 2000) to more than 360,000 (Fiscal Year 2012). It is expected that this number will double again in the next 10 years. Due to this rapid growth, ensuring that VA has the best training for its providers is a top priority.
“We launched these mini-residencies in 2008 as a way to proactively prepare our providers for the record influx of women Veterans,” said Patricia Hayes, Chief Consultant, Women’s Health Services. “I am thrilled that we have trained so many providers and see this as a major step towards having every woman Veteran who comes to VA seen by a provider who is both interested and proficient in women’s health care.”
A similar mini-residency program for primary care nurses was delivered in VHA’s virtual university in May of 2013 and a mini-residency program for emergency medicine nurses and providers is planned for early 2014.
“Looking forward, we hope to expand our training programs to include more interprofessional and team training so that various professions can learn from each other and learn as they practice: as part of a team,” said Dr. Laure Veet, Director, Women’s Health Education, VHA Women’s Health Services. “We also look forward to refining plans to help clinical staff stay up-to-date on latest advancements in women Veterans health care after the initial training.”
For Dr. Robin Faumuina, a participant from VA American Samoa, the mini-residency program gave her an unmatched opportunity to learn as much as possible in order to improve her expertise in working with women Veterans.
“We have to fly our patients to Honolulu to seek care from specialists,” Dr. Faumuina said. “So, as the Women’s Health Provider at the American Samoa VA clinic, I [grasped] as much knowledge and experience that I [could], in order to better serve our Women Veterans.”
For Dr. Jill Clay, a primary care physician from a community outpatient clinic in Newark, OH, the program’s content and structure left a mark.
“I felt I left with more confidence and knowledge than prior to the program… I look forward to attending in the future.”