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Veterans Health Administration

Meeting the Needs of Women Veterans

New Clinic Focuses on
Women Veterans Health

The Wilmington VA Medical Center recently celebrated the opening of a new clinic specializing in behavioral health services, with a particular focus on the unique health care needs of women Veterans.

It’s just the latest example of how VA is trying to make itself more attractive to women, one of the fastest growing segments of the Veteran population.

“This trend of women Veterans using VA is only going to grow,” said Mary Nairn, Women Veterans Program Manager at VA Wilmington. “We expect that more and more women will be coming to VA for all their health care needs, and we are preparing for them.”

Nairn noted that an increasing number of younger women are entering the VA health care system. “The numbers are growing,” she observed. “Right now, for example, we have nine pregnant moms.”

She added: “We have a great team providing women’s care. This new facility will finally give women a clinic of their own.”

Dr. Enrique Guttin, Chief of Staff at VA Wilmington, agreed. “I was participating in a women Veterans open forum last week,” he said, “and they confirmed my assumption that women tend to perceive the VA as ‘an old gentleman’s hospital.’ That’s a perception we’d like to change. They were very happy to learn that our new clinic will provide them with a dedicated space, just for them, that will have the ambiance, the equipment, and the personnel who know how to deal with their specific needs.

“It’s not that we don’t offer all that right now at the Wilmington VA,” he added. “We do. It’s just combined with other services we provide to all our Veterans, male and female. Our new clinic will put it all under one roof for our women Vets. For example, they’ll have their own waiting area, just for them, and their kids too. They won’t have to sit in a waiting room anymore with a bunch of guys who are talking about trucks and sports.”

At VA Wilmington’s new clinic, women Veterans will receive comprehensive care including primary care and gender-specific care. The clinic will provide child-friendly waiting space, specially designed exam rooms with patient lifts, and a gynecology procedure room. Some of the services available will include primary care, gynecological care, initial maternity care, initial infertility evaluation and treatment, menopause care, osteoporosis care, women’s health cancer screening, and parenting counseling.

Counseling and treatment for military sexual trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder will also be available.

In addition to its focus on the needs of women patients the clinic will provide comprehensive, integrated mental health services to all Veterans served by the Wilmington VA Medical Center. This interdisciplinary program will draw upon the expertise of psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, licensed clinical social workers, registered nurses, and vocational and rehabilitation specialists. Substance abuse treatment, smoking cessation, and suicide prevention are a few of the services that will be offered.

A woman veteran having blood pressure taken by a medical professional

 

“Women Veterans and the women who currently serve in uniform are part of a 235-year history of women defending this Nation, both in and out of uniform. America’s historical landscape is dotted with individual stories of women patriots in action—as defenders of hearth and home, as agents and interlocutors, as leaders, and today, as combatants in uniform.”

— Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki
National Summit on Women Veterans, July 2011

VA celebrates Women’s History Month by recognizing the contributions all women Veterans have made and encouraging you to consider the role of women in U.S. history, a role that embodies a tradition of service as old as the nation itself.

Countless women throughout history have heeded the call to serve our country, in times of domestic and internal strife as well as during peaceful eras. Sometimes they broke all conventions, other times they paved the way for more women; at all times they made a difference in the lives of those around them. Their strength and determination have been an inspiration to many.

Military service makes women strong; once they are Veterans, VA works to keep them healthy. However, sometimes the strongest among us have the hardest time asking for help. These may be among the increasing number of women who return home from military duty as combat Veterans, wives and mothers.

Their needs are complex and sometimes different from those who served and deployed before them. They challenge us in VA to do things differently to meet those needs.

VA must be visionary and agile enough to anticipate and adjust not only to the coming increase in women Veterans, but also to the accompanying complexity and longevity of treatment needs they bring with them.

In the last few years, VA has made significant progress in health care delivery for women Veterans. Current VHA initiatives and programs include:

  • Rolling out enhanced women’s health care — comprehensive primary care from an interested, proficient and designated women’s health provider at any access point — across facilities nationwide
  • Enhanced mental health for women Veterans
  • Staffing of every VA medical center with a Women Veterans Program Manager
  • Training more than 1,200 VA primary care providers in women’s health
  • Supporting a multifaceted research program on women’s health
  • Improving communication and outreach to women Veterans
  • Ramping up services for women Veterans who are homeless
  • Driving an awareness campaign to make the language, practice and culture of VA to be more inclusive of women.

VA recently launched a “Stories of Service” video series depicting the role of women in the military, available at www.womenshealth.va.gov. In these three- to five-minute video vignettes, women Veterans spanning various eras and service branches talk about their experiences in the military and how VA benefits worked for them.

VA’s Center for Women Veterans has helped the Department develop a unified approach to serving women Veterans and works closely with Veterans service organizations, women’s organizations, state agencies, and other entities to recognize and honor women Veterans.

National Women’s History Month is an ideal time to celebrate women Veterans as history makers and to renew VA’s commitment to ensure women Veterans receive the benefits they have earned and the best care anywhere.