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Women Veterans' Perspectives on How to Make Veterans Affairs Healthcare Settings More Welcoming to Women.

Moreau JL, Dyer KE, Hamilton AB, Golden RE, Combs AS, Carney DV, Frayne SM, Yano EM, Klap R, VA Women's Health Practice-Based Research Network. Women Veterans' Perspectives on How to Make Veterans Affairs Healthcare Settings More Welcoming to Women. Women's health issues : official publication of the Jacobs Institute of Women's Health. 2020 Jul 1; 30(4):299-305.

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PURPOSE: Women veterans are a rapidly increasing subset of the Veterans Affairs (VA) patient population but remain a numerical minority. Men veteran-dominated health care settings pose unique considerations for providing care to women veterans in a comfortable and welcoming environment. We analyzed patient suggestions on how to make the VA more welcoming to women. METHODS: We surveyed a convenience sample of women veteran patients who visited 1 of 26 VA locations in August and September of 2017. Women veterans were invited to complete brief anonymous questionnaires that included questions about harassment experiences and feeling welcome at the VA, and an open-ended question about suggestions to make the VA more welcoming to women. We analyzed data from the open-ended question using the constant comparison method. RESULTS: Among respondents (N  =  1,303), 85% felt welcome at the VA. Overall, 29% answered the open-ended prompt for a total of 490 distinct responses: 260 comments and 230 suggestions. Comments included praise for the VA (67%) and stories about feeling uncomfortable or harassed in the VA (26%). Suggestions included those related to VA staff (31%), the environment of care (18%), additional resources for women veterans (18%), clinical services for women veterans (15%), changing men veterans'' behavior toward women veterans at the VA (5%), and making the treatment of women and men the same (5%). CONCLUSIONS: Although most women veterans felt welcome in the VA, patient-centered suggestions offer opportunities for making the VA more welcoming to women. Soliciting patient suggestions and increasing awareness of how feeling welcome is experienced by patients are first steps to health care settings becoming more inclusive.

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