UAB Medicine Partners with Joining Forces to Better Identify, Treat Those Who Have Served

Identifying patients with military service can improve health outcomes

Released: 14-Jul-2014 9:00 AM EDT
Source Newsroom: University of Alabama at Birmingham
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Newswise — BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – UAB Medicine has partnered with Joining Forces, a government initiative that supports members of the military and their families by promoting various employment, education and wellness initiatives, in an effort to better identify and treat patients who serve or have served in the military.

Cheri Plasters, a University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing graduate and nurse in transplant and general surgical services in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit, will implement the “Have you ever served in the military?” campaign at UAB. UAB Hospital providers will obtain a military health history if a patient affirms he or she is current or former military personnel.

Obtaining the military health history is vital, Plasters says, because it will enable clinicians to consider unique exposures and concerns of the veteran. The data will provide more effective specific educational materials and resources for veterans and bridge the opportunities to collaborate between UAB Medicine and the Birmingham VA Medical Center, but caregivers will find out their patient’s service history only if they remember to ask.
“Every day we treat patients and have no idea if they have served our country,” Plasters said. “I saw the need and wanted to do something, especially since the challenge relates to UAB Medicine’s core values.”

According to Plasters, only 20 percent of veterans are treated at VA Medical Centers, which means many are treated at clinics, hospitals and other organizations.

“By recognizing our servicemen and -women, we can improve their quality of life and overall health outcomes,” she said. “That is why this initiative is so important. A military health history is at the core of planning the care of veterans.”

The American Academy of Nursing is assisting on the wellness front by encouraging health care providers to ask patients if they have ever served in the military, which can reveal environmental and occupational realities that may factor into patient care.

“UAB wants to provide optimal care for every patient, and the plan of care is best when a full military health history is obtained from veterans,” said Plasters.

UAB’s School of Medicine and the School of Nursing offer programs to educate providers about the military health history importance and how to use it.

“The military health history covers all of the details for providers to ask and consider,” Plasters said. “Physicians and mid-levels will use the military health history to guide their prescriptions and work with everyone else to address concerns and exposures, if that is an issue.”

The intention is for all providers at all organizations and hospitals to use a military health history to help plan care, and a presentation has been scheduled for the Region 6 American Association of Critical Care Nurses conference in Atlanta this September.
Joining Forces is a nationwide campaign started by first lady Michelle Obama and second lady Jill Biden. For more information on Joining Forces, visit www.whitehouse.gov/joiningforces.

About UAB
Known for its innovative and interdisciplinary approach to education at both the graduate and undergraduate levels, UAB is an internationally renowned research university and academic medical center and the state of Alabama’s largest employer, with some 23,000 employees and an economic impact exceeding $5 billion annually on the state. The five pillars of UAB’s mission deliver knowledge that will change your world: the education of students, who are exposed to multidisciplinary learning and a new world of diversity; research, the creation of new knowledge; patient care, the outcome of ‘bench-to-bedside’ translational knowledge; service to the community at home and around the globe, from free clinics in local neighborhoods to the transformational experience of the arts; and the economic development of Birmingham and Alabama. Learn more at www.uab.edu.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The University of Alabama at Birmingham is a separate, independent institution from the University of Alabama, which is located in Tuscaloosa. Please use University of Alabama at Birmingham on first reference and UAB on all subsequent references.

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