The lived experience of women veterans seeking healthcare



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This purpose of this hermeneutic phenomenological study was to explore the meanings of seeking healthcare by women veterans. The population of women veterans is projected to increase from 10% today to 15% of all veterans by 2030 (United States Department of Veterans Affairs, 2014). Veteran healthcare has historically focused on the issues of an aging, predominantly male population (U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs, 2016). Learning the nature of these experiences may help nurses and other healthcare providers to better understand the possible challenges faced by women veterans who need care, and to apply that understanding to helping women veterans explore appropriate and available treatment options. Study participants were recruited from throughout rural and urban Texas. Purposive sampling was used to obtain participants who fit the sample criteria: age 18 or over, served in the military, and not a member of the National Guard or Reserves at the time of the interview. Women veterans were recruited initially from personal contacts of the researcher. Snowball sampling was used. Data were collected using a demographic questionnaire and semi-structured audio-recorded interviews that lasted approximately one hour. Trustworthiness was established using the framework of Lincoln & Gruba (1985) to insure credibility, transferability, dependability, and confirmability. Data analysis was ongoing with data collection, using the constant comparative method. Procedural steps reflected the recommendations of Van Manen (1990), which were: (1) formulate the phenomenological question and explicate assumptions and pre-understandings, (2) engage in investigation, (3) identify idiomatic phrases, (4) engage in phenomenological reflection and isolate thematic statements, (5) engage in phenomenological writing, and (6) collect data until saturation occurs and is verified by subsequent interviews. Twenty-one women veterans participated. Two major themes emerged, which reflected aspects about the life-long influence of the military experience on health problems and healthcare seeking, as well as expectations by women veterans about the healthcare experience: You Never Really Shed the Uniform and What Happened When I Got There. The study findings are that women veterans are highly trained and intelligent and expect healthcare providers to treat them as a member of the healthcare team. Trust in the healthcare provider in a caring atmosphere enhances the healthcare relationship. Women veterans will research and explore solutions to healthcare problems.



Women veterans, healthcare, military culture, veteran culture, perceptions, decision-making