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Ask a PMH Nurse: Veterans & Military Sexual Trauma

Ask a PMH Nurse: Veterans & Military Sexual Trauma
Brenda Mayfield, DNP, CRNP, PMHNP-BC

November 2023

Brenda Mayfield, DNP, CRNP, PMHNP-BC is an Instructor and Co-Coordinator of the PMHNP track at the University of Alabama School of Nursing, as well as Affiliate Director of the school’s PMHNP Residency Program with the Birmingham Veterans Administration Health Care System. At the APNA Annual Conference last month, she and her colleagues presented the session Veterans and Military Sexual Trauma: A Trauma-Informed Care Approach for Hope and Recovery (recording coming soon to the APNA eLearning Center!). Brenda and her colleagues presented that veterans who experience military sexual trauma (MST) seldom seek treatment and are at high risk for poor mental health outcomes including death by suicide. But, a trauma-informed care approach that includes awareness, preparedness, and action that can improve mental health outcomes and create a safe, whole-person, patient-centered avenue to recovery.

In honor of Veterans Day, she shares a few insights to inform your psychiatric-mental health nursing care for veterans who may have experienced MST:

One simple practice to help ensure that veterans who have experienced Military Sexual Trauma (MST) receive the care they need

“Veterans do not disclose military sexual trauma (MST) for many reasons. Providing a trauma-informed care approach ensures they receive appropriate care and begins with verifying veteran status. We need to know who our veterans are to get them the appropriate treatment they need.”

What to know about connecting veterans who have experienced MST to Veterans Affairs (VA) resources

“PMH nurses need to be aware of the vast resources the VA has for supporting those who have experienced MST. VA treatment for MST is available regardless of service connection or discharge status. MST does not have to be reported in real time for veterans to meet eligibility. Veterans can contact their local veterans center, speak with an MST coordinator at any VA, call the VA benefits Hotline at 800-827-1000, or access these MST online resources.”

A key takeaway for PMH nurses practicing in all settings

“Establish a therapeutic relationship with your veterans. This promotes trust and communication with providers. Ask permission to inquire about their military experiences and elicit their consent to treat, offer reassurance as this helps to prevent re-traumatization, and include them in the decision-making process. This approach is non-intrusive and non-threatening and can start conversations with veterans who may have experienced MST.”

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