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Don’t Call Me 'Mister': Report Says VA Needs Cultural Change in Women's Care
In the report, the Women Veterans Task Force also recognizes that creating an environment where women feel comfortable asking for and receiving healthcare services requires more than attention to staff numbers and room dividers. It requires a “culture change across VA to reverse the enduring perception that a woman who comes to VA for services is not a veteran herself, but a male veteran’s wife, mother or daughter. Women veterans often report feeling that their service in the military is not recognized or respected.”
As one Air Force veteran commented, “you can redesign physical facilities, you can add healthcare services, you can assign women coordinators … but until culture change comes about, nothing will actually change across the whole fragmented system. … I’m going to suggest that some kind of national campaign be developed along the lines of: Assume That Every Female in the Facility is a Veteran! Every time! Every Encounter! Every Female!”
Another comment suggested: “Do something about the [templates] for lab results, letters and the like. As it stands right now, they are only able to print with ‘Mr. Veteran’ as the greeting.”
The VA has launched a national campaign designed to educate staff and make women veterans feel more welcome, with a “Please Don’t Call Me Mister” poster that echoes these comments.
The cultural change represented in the draft strategic report “requires ongoing adaptation and transformation” of VA services, training, staff, facilities and attitudes, the report says.
Haskell points out that the draft report is the first step in creation of a comprehensive cross-VA action plan to improve services for women veterans.
“Ultimately,” she said, “our mission is to provide outstanding healthcare to women veterans. We expect our efforts at the VA will also achieve another goal: It will raise the standard of care for all women.”
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