A Nurse’s Guide to Connecting With Veteran Patients

No matter the type of medical facility you might work in as a nurse, it’s a safe bet that you’ll run across a veteran patient at some point or another. According to VA.gov, a veteran is defined as a person who served in the active military and was discharged from service under other than dishonorable conditions. And while you might not be able to personally relate to these individuals’ experience unless you’ve served yourself, it’s important to be able to connect with veterans and get them the best care possible.

Here are a few tips on doing just that:

It Never Hurts to Ask

Rule number one: it never hurts to ask a patient “Have you ever served in the military?” Whether you know ahead of time that they have or not, it’s a simple gateway into the conversation. With this one question, you’ll be able to start talking about the person’s military service and get a better picture of how their time in the armed forces may have impacted their health.

Familiarize Yourself With Common Veteran Health Concerns

There are plenty of health concerns that veterans have to be concerned with at a higher rate than the civilian population. In more recent years, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has taken center-stage. Sexual trauma is also an unfortunate problem among military personnel. Blast concussions, exposure to radiation or toxic chemicals, and musculoskeletal injuries brought on by vigorous physical activity are a few examples of other common health issues present among veterans.

Familiarize yourself with these health problems and keep a close eye out for them when treating veteran patients. And be aware that active military members may often avoid seeking care for these ailments because they’re worried about letting down their fellow service members.

Learn About Veteran Groups in Your Community

One of the greatest ways that nurses can help veteran patients is by being aware of various veteran-oriented groups in their local community, including chapters of the American Legion or the Disabled American Veterans group. Veteran hotlines are also available in many areas — it’s especially important with the rise of mental-health related problems in veterans.

Thank Them for Their Service

Last but not least, simply thanking your veteran patient for their service goes a long way toward building a rapport with the patient, helping them to open up and discuss their own health in greater detail. That simple acknowledgment and note of appreciation make a huge difference.


Are you interested in learning more about working with veterans? Perhaps you’re in the market for a job change that allows you to work with more varied groups of patients. Contact BOS Medical to get started on your journey.

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