Communicating With Veteran Patients

Communicating with Veteran Patients

While veterans share the same anatomy as their friends and family, their bodies have often been through very different physical and emotional experiences than the rest of us. It's important to understand the unique health concerns a veteran may have.

According to a 2008 RAND study, almost 20% of veterans screened positive for depression or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Many veterans also experienced a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) during service, which can include trauma to the head, resulting in concussive, closed, or penetrating injuries. Combine PTSD with a potential TBI injury, add physical harm or discomfort, and veterans can experience a number of conditions that chiropractic care can help address.

Chiropractic support is available to Veterans as part of the standard Medical Benefits Package. Access is by referral from a Veterans Administration primary care or specialty provider. Seventy of the nation’s VA facilities offer on-site chiropractic care. Other providers are independently located as part of the Community Care program. According to the VA, more than 40,000 veterans have recently used chiropractic services. This is especially important as chiropractic care has been proven to effectively reduce the need for opiates, and veterans are at-risk for some of the factors that can lead to drug abuse.

One challenge for the chiropractor working with this demographic is that a large group of veterans (often older people) are sometimes found to have what is called low “health literacy,” meaning they don’t have the ability to find, understand and implement information and services related to their health care. Sometimes this is because they have a lower level of education or come from a segment of the population that has not traditionally had consistent access to health care. Sometimes it’s a result of their mental and physical condition once they’ve returned from service. Whatever the cause, you may need to pay particular attention to how you communicate.

When a provider can effectively communicate, this leads to decreased anxiety, strong relationships, and an increased feeling of being understood. These feelings can result in better adherence to medications or treatment plans.

  • Explain important terms in plain language, but do not talk down to the patient.
  • Use friendly, easy-to-understand words. Avoid complex words or phrases, or jargon.
  • Ask the patient to explain what you’ve discussed in their own words. This will help you determine whether they clearly understand the information you’ve shared.
  • Ask questions. Don’t expect the patient to know what is important and what isn’t.
  • Many veterans feel unheard and unseen. Building a relationship of trust is essential.

These are resources created by the program that you can use in your practice, whether you are a Community Care provider or not:

If you want more information about becoming part of the Community Care program, click here.

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