1. Section Editor(s): Walden, Pamela BSN, RN, CHPN, OCN

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From the beginning of our training, we're taught to handle the complexities of each individual patient as we care for him or her, and veterans are no exception. But providing this multidimensional care can challenge even the most aware caregiver. What can we do to ensure that veterans receive the best care possible?

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Our experiences make us who we are and help determine how we navigate the world around us. The experiences of combat veterans can mold and filter the way they deal with everyday situations. Stress and illness can exacerbate underlying posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms and other psychological disorders. That's why it's important to evaluate veterans periodically as part of their routine healthcare, with particular emphasis during illness or stressful life events.


Advances in trauma care on the battlefield and immediately following have led to veterans living with physical damage that wouldn't have been survivable in the not too distant past. Young men and women must cope with multiple amputations, traumatic brain injury, and scarring from burns and other physical injuries as they rebuild their lives and return to their families and communities. These veterans require intense support and rehabilitation, and respecting their courage and dignity as they go about this work is an integral part of their care.


Because these experiences can change an individual in fundamental ways, the veteran who returns home may not be the same person-physically and/or emotionally-who left his or her family. These issues can cause rifts in the family unit. PTSD, depression, and coping disorders can be among the factors in domestic violence, impaired relationships, crimes, and suicide. Reestablishing bonds with spouses and children, obtaining employment, financial pressures, and caring for the special needs of injured veterans in the home are just a few of the stressors for returning veterans and their families.


The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has been meeting the needs of our nation's veterans during war and peace time for generations, singularly dedicated to the well-being of those who've served in the military. Awareness of the services that the VA offers and assisting veterans to take advantage of them can make all the difference in the lives of veterans as they return home.


As we meet these veterans in our communities, take a moment to thank them for their service. When caring for them and their families, remember the complexities of the individual veteran and his or her situation. Encourage them to seek professional help and support with issues that may be related to their service. The experiences of these veterans can shape their perceptions in ways that those who haven't experienced combat may have difficulty understanding. Your support and acceptance will help smooth their transition back to civilian life.


Turn to our special Celebrating Nurses column on page 22, "Traumatic Brain Injury and Military Members" on page 26, and "Invisible Battle Scars" on page 36 in this Veterans Day issue to learn more.