VETERANS: VA Exploring New Ways to Ease Veterans’ Pain, Trauma
Mannequins to Marijuana.
Starting off 2017 with new leadership and a promise of additional funding from the Trump administration, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), is exploring new techniques and new technologies to enhance patient treatment and caregiver training — amid increasing demands from a mushrooming veteran population.
The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) National Simulation Center in Florida provides a high-fidelity training environment by replicating actual patient treatment areas with video recording for classroom debriefing and review. (VHA photo).
In addition to meeting the needs of aging 20th century vets, the VA health care system is trying to cope with a surge of veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. The number of veteran enrollees in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) grew from 7.9 million in 2006 to nearly 9 million a decade later, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), is the most prevalent mental health challenge facing veterans, according to the VA’s National Center for PTSD. VA research indicates between 11 percent and 20 percent of veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan have PTSD in any given year. For Vietnam vets, it estimates 30 percent have had PTSD in their lifetime. More than 330,000 service members were diagnosed with traumatic brain injury between 2000 and 2015, according to the Defense Department’s Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center.
Dr. David Shulkin, the new Secretary of Veterans Affairs has pledged to improve veterans healthcare services, including providing timely access, especially cutting the first appointment wait time for vets in crisis, and to do more to address the veteran suicide rate of 20 deaths a day. Veterans Affairs was one of only three federal departments to get a funding increase in President Donald Trump’s first budget proposal. The White House is seeking to increase VA’s funding by 6 percent to $78.9 billion.
Meanwhile, veterans’ groups are calling on Congress to increase funding for complementary and alternative therapies for the “invisible wounds of war,” PSTD and traumatic brain injury (TBI). VA is studying non-mainstream medical practices ranging from natural products like vitamins, minerals and herbs to mind and body practices like yoga, acupuncture, meditation, massage therapy and chiropractic and osteopathic spinal manipulation.
The American Legion has suggested studying medical marijuana as a therapy for chronic pain. Chronic pain is the most common problem afflicting veterans. Almost two-thirds of veterans say they are in pain, and 9.1 percent say their pain is severe.
VHA has turned to advanced medical simulation and other high tech systems to standardize training procedures and education policies across its 1,233 healthcare facilities, including 168 medical centers.
VHA opened its new national simulation training center near Orlando, Florida last fall. Using computerized mannequins and other high tech equipment, students can replicate actual patient treatment situations that can be repeated as often as necessary. The training can be shared with other VA facilities through on-line video and other digital methods.
These and related topics will be discussed by government, medical and industry experts at the VA Healthcare 2017 conference May 15-18 in Arlington, Virginia. To read more, click here.
Entry filed under: Afghanistan, Iraq, Lessons Learned, National Security and Defense, Skills and Training, Technology. Tags: Afghanistan War vets, American Legion, Department of Veterans Affairs, Fiscal 2018 Budget, Iraq War vets, medical marijuana, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, veterans healthcare, veterans hospitals.