UMKC prioritizes veterans

Hope Austin

A $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration will allow students of nursing, pharmacy, psychology and social work to receive special training on working with veterans.

UMKC secured the three-year grant through an interprofessional partnership between the schools of Nursing and Health Studies, Pharmacy, and Social Work, as well as the Department of Psychology. The grant is part of federal initiative to engage healthcare providers in intra-professional collaboration.

Jane Peterson, a clinical associate professor in the school of nursing and project director of the grant, hopes the inter-professional grant will lead to better communication between health officials.
“Often communication is not as planned or as intentional as we would like,” she said. “We deliberately are working together to improve the quality of care.”

While better communication between health officials is one goal the training program strives to meet, the ultimate focus is on effectively meeting the needs of veterans.

The training will involve paying special attention to physical and psychological issues many veterans may face, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, anxiety and moral injury, which is a condition that occurs when someone is in a combat situation and suffers trauma by doing something morally conflicting.

The student training program will involve consulting student veterans about what they feel they need from faculty and health professionals. To Peterson, it is imperative that student veterans can give their input at whatever level they can be involved.
“I think it will have some additional benefits if we learn to work with veterans,” Peterson said. “We’re hoping to take what we’ve earned and do better work with veterans.”

Peterson met with student veteran Theo Coney, graduate assistant in the office of student affairs, and Coney made suggestions about how faculty and health professionals can better serve student veterans. These suggestions include faculty workshops about working with veterans, making accommodations for students who get deployed and encouraging faculty members to be more direct when giving suggestions to student veterans.

“In faculty, we often say ‘come see me during my office hours,’” Peterson said. According to Peterson, phrasing like this can be too vague for people who are used to taking direct orders, so faculty should be more direct when giving suggestions.

The grant will be used to create a course that will help healthcare professionals communicate more efficiently with veterans. The course will include both classroom and clinical aspects, the latter being carried out at the Kansas City Veterans Administration Medical Center, and will be offered beginning in the spring. VA staff will work with students in the clinical setting.