Nurses Caring For Military Families

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Military families face significant stressors, such as geographic separation and frequent relocation. Other difficulties for the spouses and children of military members include the impact of parental deployment on children and the family dynamic, as well as the transition to civilian life after leaving the armed forces.

Deployment and geographic separation are major stressors for military families.

Family Nurse Practitioners (FNPs) and the nurses they supervise commonly work in military hospitals and clinics across all branches of the armed forces both domestically and abroad, according to Today’s Military, a U.S. Department of Defense publication. FNPs who receive their post-master’s certificate, like the one offered online at Duquesne University, will be qualified to pursue a commission in the armed services or work as a civilian APRN to provide care for military families.

Deployment And Family Separation

Perhaps the biggest stressor military families face is geographic separation from loved ones. A mix of pride, fear, and anxiety can affect both service members and their families.

Deployed family members might experience regret for missing important steps in their children’s lives, while families at home might grapple with the uncertainties military service can bring.

FNPs who care for military families that have a deployed parent usually begin the process by evaluating the family to determine any physical, emotional, or psychosocial issues. Military children might feel a sense of powerlessness that causes them to act out or even hurt themselves.

Successful FNPs take these factors into account and help remedy them by treating any physical injuries or conditions, as well as developing plans and goals for each child’s care and treatment. FNPs also treat patients on a holistic level, which means that they treat the patient as a whole, not just their physical symptoms. Holistic care means treating both the body and mind of patients.

Relocation Difficulties

Frequent relocation is another major source of anxiety. Both parents and children are often separated from their extended families and close friends as a result of relocation.

Aside from the emotional toll, frequent relocation can be detrimental to a family’s financial and medical well being. With each move, families lose their primary physicians, notes The Nurse Practitioner in its article, “Caring For Military Families: Understanding Their Unique Stressors.”

Moving around can be especially problematic for families dealing with chronic conditions or disabilities because specialists are not always available in all areas.

While FNPs are equipped to care for patients of all kinds, special needs patients may require care beyond their scope of practice. In these instances, patients may rely on their FNP to refer them to the right specialist.

Impact On Military Children And The Family Dynamic

The military lifestyle can be demanding, particularly for spouses who are left to raise children without a partner. This altered household dynamic can disrupt schedules and multiply responsibilities.

Long-term family separations can increase anxiety and pressure on remaining parents, according to The Nurse Practitioner, and also cause psychological problems for children between the ages of eleven to seventeen who are experiencing puberty, social shifts, and changes in brain chemistry.

“Existing studies suggest that military-affiliated youth demonstrate resilience, but also high rates of sexually transmitted infection, stress, and substance use,” David A. Klein and fellow researchers wrote in “All Military Adolescents Are Not the Same: Sexuality and Substance Use among Adolescents in the U.S. Military Healthcare System.”

One of the leading considerations for FNPs caring for military children and teens is to ensure they do not develop destructive habits. In addition to providing a safe environment for open discussion, FNPs can also prescribe medications or refer families to a counselor or therapist for further treatment.

Navigating The VA Health System

Veterans and active-duty personnel who have received referrals have access to the healthcare benefits provided by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), but may have problems getting access to providers because of long waiting lists.

A recent VA decision grants Advance Practice Nurse Practitioners, including FNPs full practice autonomy, meaning that APRNs can now offer more comprehensive care to veterans in VA facilities without the supervision of a physician.

The implications are significant for both nurse practitioners and the veterans receiving care.

“Advanced practice registered nurses are valuable members of VA’s healthcare system,” VA Undersecretary for Health Dr. David J. Shulkin said in announcing the new policy in 2016. “Amending this regulation increases our capacity to provide timely, efficient, effective and safe primary care, aids VA in making the most efficient use of APRN staff capabilities, and provides a degree of much needed experience to alleviate the current access challenges that are affecting VA.”

Many practitioners previously had to pay consulting fees to maintain mandatory physician supervision. The expansion of prescriptive authority and autonomy allows FNPs to reinvest the money they save into further training, expanding their practice, or subsidizing to low-income patients.

About Duquesne University’s Online Post-Master’s Certificate Program

The Duquesne University School of Nursing is top ranked in U.S. News and World Report’s 2017 Best Online Graduate Nursing Programs. Registered nurses who become FNPs are trained to provide care to civilians and military personnel across the lifespan. Duquesne University also offers tuition discounts for active or retired military personnel who are interested in a higher education nursing program.  For more information, visit Duquesne University’s online Post-Master’s Certificate program website.