Primary Care Providers' Perspectives on Providing Care to Women Veterans with Histories of Sexual Trauma.Womens Health Issues. 2019 Jul - Aug; 29(4):325-332.WH
One in four women Veterans who use the Veterans Health Administration (VA) screen positive for military sexual trauma and may need trauma-sensitive care and coordination. VA primary care providers (PCPs), women veterans' main source of care, need to be well-versed in trauma-sensitive approaches to care. Women veterans' numerical minority in the VA can make provider exposure to female patients inconsistent, which may impede PCP experience in providing appropriate care. To inform strategies for improving trauma-sensitive primary care, we sought to better understand PCPs' current approaches to providing care to women veterans with sexual trauma histories.
We conducted semistructured telephone interviews with PCPs (n = 28) practicing in VA primary care clinics. Participants were asked about their experiences delivering trauma-sensitive care as well as best practices. Interviews were recorded, transcribed, and analyzed for major themes regarding barriers to and facilitators of trauma-sensitive care.
Participants expressed challenges delivering care to women with sexual trauma histories, including 1) insufficient time, 2) lack of perceived proficiency and/or personal comfort (with general physical examinations as well as gender-specific care such as Pap, breast, and pelvic examinations), and 3) difficulties with fostering positive patient-provider relationships. Access to mental health resources was noted as a key facilitator of providing trauma-sensitive care. Participants also shared existing (and potential) best practices and recommendations, such as paying special attention to patient behavioral cues related to comfort.
PCPs delivering care to women in VA facilities may benefit from an increased awareness of best practices to facilitate the delivery of trauma-sensitive care.