Health Care Policy X 4
Complete this week’s assigned readings, chapters 39-43. After completing the readings, post a short reflection, approximately 1 paragraph in length, discussing your thoughts and opinions about one or several of the specific topics covered in the textbook readings. Identify which one MSN Essential most relates to your selected topic (why) in your discussion.
Advanced Nursing Education and Career Progression
The MHS places great importance on advanced nursing education. During war, health care continues to evolve based on the nature of combat as well as the challenges posed by working in the austere environments characteristic of the battlefield (Spencer & Favand, 2006). Military nurses must possess the advanced practice specialty skills needed during conflict. Additionally, master’s degrees are required to be obtained before being promoted to more senior military ranks. Professional growth and development is continuously provided throughout a nurse’s career in the MHS by way of leadership experiences, on-the-job training, and continuing education. A variety of educational programs, including postgraduate opportunities, are available. Full funding, in addition to continuing to receive full salary and benefits, is provided for nurses earning advanced practice degrees as well as those pursuing doctoral studies. The armed services are committed to advancing military nursing science to optimize the health of military members and their families. Graduate education in civilian programs is available for selected promising nurse researchers. Additionally, to further advance the nursing research needs of the MHS, in 1992 Congress established the TriService Nursing Research Program (TSNRP), which is the only program funding and supporting rigorous scientific research in the field of military nursing (Duong et al., 2005).
TSNRP funds a wide range of studies to advance military nursing science. For example, in 2011 a pilot study was conducted to determine the sensitivity and specificity of small animal positron emission tomography-computed tomography (PET-CT) in identifying metabolic changes in muscle tissue surrounding simulated shrapnel injuries, and comparing this imaging with traditional x-ray images. Results showed the PET-CT to be more sensitive in identifying tissue changes. Military nurses now have a unique opportunity to educate patients and military health care providers, as well as to inform policy changes, about the possibility of early tissue changes around embedded shrapnel fragments and the use of PET-CT imaging as a possible surveillance tool. Another study supported by TSNRP in 2010 sought to understand how posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) affect couple functioning in Army soldiers returning from combat. Findings included that almost 50% of couples had at least one person in the relationship with a high level of PTSS. Based on these results, development of interventions and policies designed to mitigate, or even prevent, negative outcomes such as divorce, violence, and suicide for military couples facing combat deployment are under way (TSNRP, 2013).
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
The problem of posttraumatic stress disorders in veterans has existed for centuries; however, the condition is attracting high levels of current attention caused by the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and the disorder now impacts up to 22% of veterans (Johnson et al., 2013; Murray & Garbutt, 2012; Sabella, 2012). VHA and MHS nurses, along with their behavioral health counterparts, have collaboratively developed evidence-based guidelines on assessment and effective treatments which include multiple treatment modalities such as trauma-focused psychotherapies (e.g., exposure therapy), anxiety management, stress reduction, guided imagery, relaxation techniques, cognitive processing and behavioral therapy, and social support (Johnson et al., 2013; Murray & Garbutt, 2012; Murray & Smith, 2013; Sabella, 2012).
Current policies highlight requirements related to the timely assessment, treatment, and follow-up care of PTSD in both DoD and VHA clinical settings (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs & Department of Defense, 2010). However, most military service members and veterans do not seek treatment for PTSD because of stigma, barriers to care, and negative perceptions associated with receiving mental health care (Hoge, 2011; Murray & Garbutt, 2012; U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs & Department of Defense, 2010). Policy issues requiring high priority include better understanding of the barriers to low mental health service use in the MHS and VHA (Hoge, 2011). Nurses are highly instrumental in understanding obstacles to care as well as working to develop and implement collaborative care models to increase outreach to veterans in need of mental health services.
Although the DoD and VHA continue to address military sexual trauma (MST; sexual assault or repeated, threatening sexual harassment that occurs during military service) and to describe what is being done to tackle this issue, many members of Congress believe there is an epidemic in the armed forces. It is estimated that 6.1% of women and 1.2% of men serving in the armed forces experienced and reported unwanted sexual contact in 2012. These numbers are believed to be much higher given that incidents go unreported as a result of fear of retaliation which could impact careers and the lack of trust that appropriate action will be taken against the offender (Johnson et al., 2013). Most experiences (67%) happened at work on military installations (Department of Defense, 2012). This is not a new issue for the military. For over two decades senior military officials and members of Congress have proposed recommendations to address sexual assault and harassment. Despite these efforts, the
incidence of such events continues to increase annually. This creates substantial financial and emotional cost that affects several generations of veterans and lasts long after a victim leaves the military. At this point, the VHA picks up the costs associated with a variety of physical and mental health problems (primarily posttraumatic stress disorder and depression), which sexual assault and harassment can trigger.
In 2013, Congress required a response to this ongoing problem. NDAA 2013 mandated immediate policy changes to include investigation of all occurrences of sexual misconduct, requiring an independent review of all legal proceedings and investigations surrounding MST, and improving victim protections and reporting policies (U.S. Department of Defense, 2013). VHA mental health providers, including nurses, are developing and evaluating therapies specific to MST. Furthermore, nurses are using telehealth technology to reach out to veterans in remote areas of the country.
Access to Care
More recently, it has come to light that access to care for veterans is worse than previously thought. In May 2014, the Veterans Affairs (VA) Inspector General began to investigate patient wait times and scheduling practices on the basis of concerns that veterans were not receiving timely care. Preliminary findings showed that systemic patient safety issues and possible wrongful deaths occurred as a result of gross mismanagement of resources, unethical behavior, and possible criminal misconduct by VHA senior hospital leadership. Before the 2014 investigation, a 2013 U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report determined that at least 50 veterans experienced delayed gastroenterology consultations for colon cancer, some of whom later died of the disease. Findings such as this provided evidence that delayed access to health care is associated with negative health outcomes (Chokshi, 2014), and these scheduling practices are not in compliance with VHA policy (U.S Department of Veteran Affairs Office of the Inspector General, 2014). Kizer and Jha (2014) noted that almost 20 years ago the VHA had to implement sweeping reforms to increase both quality and accountability. The reforms of the 1990s improved quality and increased access and efficiency (Kizer & Jha, 2014). The successes of the past reforms in the VHA provide clear evidence that the problems are fixable (Kizer & Jha, 2014) and new reforms are again needed to fix current challenges. One such attempt at reform is the VA Management Accountability Act of 2014, which has passed the U.S. House of Representatives and gives the Secretary of the VA greater authority to fire senior administrators. In addition, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) along with John McCain (R-AZ) introduced a bipartisan comprehensive bill that supports veterans having access to community as well a federal health care providers. The bill also provides emergency funding for the VHA to hire more physicians, nurses, and other health care workers.
Choose any of these Essentials for each of the topics and answer the question:
I. Background for Practice from Sciences and Humanities
II. Organizational and Systems Leadership
III. Quality Improvement and Safety
IV. Translating and Integrating Scholarship into Practice
V. Informatics and Healthcare Technologies
VI. Health Policy and Advocacy
VII. Interprofessional Collaboration for Improving Patient and Population Health Outcomes
VIII. Clinical Prevention and Population Health for Improving Health
Complete this week’s assigned readings, chapters 39-43. After completing the readings, post a short reflection, approximately 1 paragraph in length, discussing your thoughts and opinions about one or several of the specific topics covered in the textbook readings. Identify which one MSN Essential most relates to your selected topic (Why) in your discussion.
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