Doing well by doing good for veterans: Penn State Health seeks to provide support
Masayo Mesler believes Penn State Health medical staff should consider a few things when they treat a patient who is a veteran.
A veteran may not talk about the extent of their physical injuries, she said, or depression because military culture emphasizes overcoming both physical and mental challenges. Some veterans who have been in combat may suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and may not want to sit with their back to a door while waiting for a provider. She also said medical staff may not think to ask a woman if she is a veteran even though many have served their country.
“If a doctor knows a patient is a veteran, they may want to ask questions differently to get the answers they need to care for him or her,” said Mesler, an analyst with Penn State Health Enterprise Information Management. “We need to educate our medical staff about these potential issues.”
Mesler served 30 years in the U.S. Army Reserve and active duty military. She is part of the Penn State Health Capital Region (Dauphin) Military and Veterans Affinity Resource Network Group, through the Office for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. The group is run by veterans dedicated to helping other veterans who work at Penn State Health and Penn State College of Medicine, along with patients. College of Medicine students and learners have their own veterans group.
As America honors Veterans Day on Wednesday, Nov. 11, Pennsylvania has one of the largest veteran populations in the nation. More than 840,000 veterans live in the commonwealth, many in central Pennsylvania, according to the U.S. Census. While the affinity group has some growing pains and wants to find better ways to be more coordinated with the rest of the health system and College of Medicine, it is focused on important goals that members hope will help fellow veterans.
The group wants to see increased recruitment of veterans for staff positions and is working on a veteran-to-veteran program where the group will partner with veterans organizations and nursing homes that have residents who served in the military. The goal is to connect with veterans when they find themselves in the hospital.
For Mike Beachler, a data center engineer at Penn State Health and co-chair of the affinity group – his co-chair partner is currently deployed – part of the work that is important is making sure veterans and their spouses don’t feel alone when they are in the hospital.
“Some people don’t have anyone, especially older veterans, and we can be there for them,” said Beachler who spent 13 years in the Navy. “We also could really be a great source of information for them.”
A patient, family member or medical staff can request a Penn State Health employee who is a veteran visit a patient who is a veteran, through the group’s Vets Visiting Vets, or V2V, program. When visitation rules returns to normal, this program will resume, and people can request a visit by emailing email@example.com.
David Craft, medical director of the microbiology lab and professor of the department of pathology and laboratory medicine at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, spent 30 years in the U.S. Army. He knows that veterans, especially younger veterans, are used to a rigid structure in the military. Then they try to make their way through what can be a circuitous health care system and are frustrated.
“This is all really new to a lot of veterans, and if a health crisis occurs, there can be a disconnect on navigating the system,” he said. He’d like to see the affinity group help veterans when challenged by that.
The affinity group wants to help improve the patient experience and make certain veterans who work for the health system and College of Medicine know there are dedicated veterans ready to assist them. Employees interested in joining a veteran affinity group can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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