Talk to the Veterans Crisis Line now
U.S. flag
An official website of the United States government

Health Services Research & Development

Go to the ORD website
Go to the QUERI website
HSRD Conference Logo



2023 HSR&D/QUERI National Conference Abstract

Printable View

5010 — Co-designing a Model of Veteran and Veteran Family Caregiver Engagement in Research: The VetREP Experience

Lead/Presenter: Rebekah Layton
All Authors: Sweeney, C (Veterans Research Engagement Panel, Durham Center of Innovation to Accelerate Discovery and Practice Transformation, Durham VA Health Care System) White, BS Durham Center of Innovation to Accelerate Discovery and Practice Transformation, Durham VA Health Care System) Finley, C (Veterans Research Engagement Panel, Durham Center of Innovation to Accelerate Discovery and Practice Transformation, Durham VA Health Care System) Robinson, C (Veterans Research Engagement Panel, Durham Center of Innovation to Accelerate Discovery and Practice Transformation, Durham VA Health Care System) Sacra, E (Veterans Research Engagement Panel, Durham Center of Innovation to Accelerate Discovery and Practice Transformation, Durham VA Health Care System; Warrior Wellness Solutions) Gierisch, JM (Durham Center of Innovation to Accelerate Discovery and Practice Transformation, Durham VA Health Care System)

Objectives:
In 2015, Durham VA researchers initiated planning for a Veteran engagement group to inform the science conducted in our health services research center. I, and another Veteran, partnered with VA researchers to collaboratively develop all aspects of a Veteran engagement group (i.e., recruitment processes and materials, governance documents, basic research principles and ethics training). The product of this planning process was the formation of Veteran Research Engagement Panel (VetREP). Our mission is to promote Veteran- and Veteran Family Caregiver-important research by providing guidance to VA researchers in setting research priorities and developing research questions on outcomes that matter to Veterans; co-designing research; and interpreting and disseminating research findings.

Methods:
VetREP is a group comprised of Veterans and caregivers. We commit to 3-year terms and monthly 2-hour meetings. Veterans and researchers jointly established VetREP as a platform to provide meaningful research engagement by Veterans and caregivers. Currently, VetREP is comprised of 16 Veterans and caregivers.

Results:
As a seed group member since 2016, I was also one of two Veterans who worked with Durham VA researchers to co-design VetREP. To assess our growth, diversity, and alignment with evidence-based principles of patient engagement, I worked with Durham VA researchers to develop an evaluation plan of our formation using VetREP administrative data (i.e., membership applications, three years of annual membership evaluations, VetREP charter). We conducted a qualitative content analysis of VetREP governance documents and descriptive analysis of membership records and evaluations to assess membership engagement, diversity, and satisfaction.

Implications:
Since VetREP’s inception, I and other members of VetREP have helped researchers acquire over $5.3 million in funding. We have consulted on 10+ projects annually. Over the last three years, VetREP experienced increases in our membership diversity by sex, race/ethnicity, service era, and service branch. We have an 81% membership retention rate. Partnership satisfaction is high as measured by our annual survey. Analysis of the inaugural VetREP charter produced 11 themes underscoring the importance of fostering mutually beneficial interactions, providing structural supports, supporting Veteran and caregiver agency, and bidirectional learning.

Impacts:
VetREP showcases a sustainable, feasible model of Veteran and caregiver research engagement. Co-developing a fixed-panel engagement model, with institutionally provided administrative and logistical supports, allowed sustainable growth and consistency over time while providing a platform for bidirectional learning, collaboration, and meaningful engagement between researchers, Veterans, and caregivers.