Takeaway: HSR&D researchers help Veterans and caregivers reflect on and describe the impact of invisible injuries related to military service on themselves and their families. Previous HSR&D research has shown the impact of storytelling—through Veterans’ personal photo-narratives in a traveling Photovoice exhibit-- on attitudes and knowledge of VA leadership, providers, and staff, including increased knowledge about the needs of OEF/OIF Veterans, enhanced empathy for and understanding of patients, and development of new skills to build rapport with patients.
Through two HSR&D-funded studies, cameras were given to Veterans and family caregivers to document their daily challenges navigating post-deployment reintegration and healthcare. The first study: Photovoice as an Educational Intervention to Improve Care of OEF/OIF Veterans led to development of the traveling exhibit From War to Home: Through the Veteran’s Lens. The exhibit, which focuses on Veterans’ experiences seeking post-deployment care in VA and community settings, has been installed in more than a dozen VA medical centers and other locations around the country, and has been featured in the press. The exhibit continues to travel, with one copy on permanent display at the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System.
“When the VA opened the exhibit, it could not have been a better place to start building trust... It was not a highlight reel, but an honest self-reflection and gave a true sense they desired self-improvement.” —Lawrence Davidson, Veteran Participant
The second study – titled Communicating the Impact of mTBI on Post-Deployment Reintegration using Photovoice – focused on exploring the impact of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and comorbid mental health conditions on Veterans and their families, as well as identifying gaps in care and services for Veterans and families living with TBI. The study resulted in another traveling exhibit titled From War to Home: The Impact of Invisible Injuries. Most recently, three families worked with HSR&D researchers to develop short videos highlighting the impact of TBI on families with young children. These videos have been shown at conferences and used by Veterans and caregivers in presentations with the VA research team. The project also has led to peer-reviewed research articles and conference presentations co-authored by VA researchers, Veterans, and caregivers, as well as collaboration with the Elizabeth Dole Foundation.