Health and wellness

Supporting Healthcare Veterans: Understanding Their Unique Needs

Millions of Veterans face behavioral health challenges like depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Unfortunately, many of them are not connected to services that can help.

Cultural Competency

A strong understanding of military culture is critical to providing the best possible care for healthcare veterans. A lack of cultural competency can lead to poor treatment outcomes and missed opportunities for engagement.

Cultural competence is an integrated pattern of human behavior that considers a patient’s thoughts, communications, actions, customs, beliefs, and values. It also includes their socioeconomic status, language, race/ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and religion.

A robust cultural competency requires an open mind and empathy for team members from diverse backgrounds. Employees who work in a culturally sensitive way are more likely to be flexible and adaptable, which can lead to better performance.

Culturally Sensitive Practices

Modern veterans often have more complex medical histories than their counterparts of previous generations due to the increasing duration and intensity of their tours of duty. Combined with the more difficult physical injuries caused by contemporary warfare, this has increased the need for healthcare providers to provide veterans with more holistic, effective treatment.

One way to ensure this is by practicing culturally sensitive practices. This includes providing information in a client’s native language, acknowledging dietary restrictions and beliefs, taking a question-oriented approach to psychotherapy, and using traditional remedies alongside more conventional treatments. Culturally sensitive therapists can help clients feel more seen and understood, leading to a more potent therapeutic alliance and better outcomes. It also prevents them from feeling alienated from their therapist, which can deter some from seeking therapy altogether.

Culturally Sensitive Training

Leaders must understand how cultural sensitivity can help their teams work together more effectively. Often referred to as cultural awareness, this is the ability to accept that different cultures exist and recognize them without judging which is better or worse.

In healthcare settings, that means understanding the differences between your patients and how their experiences may influence their treatment. For example, a culturally sensitive therapist can connect with their clients on a deeper level and make them feel seen and understood.

This can be done by setting a tone that prioritizes inclusivity and offering training opportunities for employees to learn more about the various cultures they interact with regularly.

Culturally Sensitive Policies

During the Global War on Terror, many women and men have spent their adolescence and young adulthood influenced by military culture. While many veterans qualify for VA healthcare, most of their treatment occurs in civilian healthcare facilities.

Psychologists and other clinicians who work with this population need to be aware of subcultural differences that can influence the onset, maintenance, and presentation of mental health symptoms. This knowledge may help them provide more effective treatment to these veterans. Research that investigates how training programs for psychologists and other clinicians increase the effectiveness of their services to veterans with PTSD, depression, and other conditions is needed. This research should also evaluate whether this increased knowledge increases patient retention and satisfaction with the care they receive.

Culturally Sensitive Assessments

Considering veterans’ unique¬†cultural beliefs, values, and practices can help healthcare professionals identify their needs. This helps ensure they use the best treatment modalities and approaches to address each client’s needs.

One myth associated with creating culturally responsive assessments is that it would be too jarring for students to see unfamiliar words and content in an evaluation. But educators are already familiar with techniques that make the unknown more approachable, such as providing word-level translation and glossaries on assessments for English learners or giving students choices in how they show what they know.

This is a central theme of the work being done by the California Performance Assessments Collaborative, a Learning Policy Institute initiative led by representatives from the Hawaiian-focused Charter School network and state education agencies.


Murtaza Ali

Murtaza Ali is a digital marketing expert and creative content writer with skills in online writing, blogging, and social media marketing. He likes to share his knowledge with readers in an inspiring and motivational way.

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