In Focus Editorial
Caring for Military Women and Families as a Nation at War
Article first published online: 16 MAR 2012
© 2012 AWHONN, the Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses
Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, & Neonatal Nursing
Volume 41, Issue 2, pages 281–282, March/April 2012
How to Cite
Wilson, C. (2012), Caring for Military Women and Families as a Nation at War. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, & Neonatal Nursing, 41: 281–282. doi: 10.1111/j.1552-6909.2011.01344.x
- Issue published online: 16 MAR 2012
- Article first published online: 16 MAR 2012
The United States has been at war for more than 10 years. The majority of today's U.S. military members joined the military after the attack on September 11, 2001. A military with an active war mission requires dangerous, prolonged, and repeated deployments. Many important arrangements are needed to prepare for deployment, but for individual members, predeployment health assessments and preventive illness education are key to military effectiveness. Frequently, predeployment health care screenings are delivered by nonmilitary providers in the community. Consequently, the obligation of predeployment education falls on providers who are less informed about the deployment needs of military women who need to maintain their health and well-being in suboptimal war zone environments.
The number of military women continues to grow, and they work in career fields that have historically been solely employed by men. These pioneers are often deployed with few female coworkers or leaders to mentor them. As women continue to make great strides in these new positions, it is imperative that nurses educate them about taking care of their health while deployed.
The authors in this In Focus series are female military nurses who have served in foreign lands, and my colleagues and I understand the health needs of deployed military women firsthand. The articles in this series highlight two common issues: gynecologic care for deployed women and obstetric care for military wives or military women. Gynecologic services capabilities have increased in the deployed setting, yet women continue to suffer with repeated genitourinary symptoms, a health issue that was identified during Operation Desert Storm in 1990. In the first article, Trego reviews the literature describing common gynecologic health needs of military women during deployment and describes how to address these needs while deployed. Prevention of genitourinary infections is paramount, and this continuing nursing education activity provides important information to assist nurses providing guidance for women about to be deployed.
In the second article, Nelson and I present the results of a qualitative study that includes the stories of women who were deployed and how they managed their genitourinary symptoms. We highlight the cultural influences within the deployed military environment and how these influences affect women's ability to manage symptoms. The role of the family, particularly a female family member, played an important role in supporting the deployed woman with genitourinary symptoms.
The next two articles focus on pregnancy. For a military wife, the memories surrounding pregnancy may focus on her time alone and away from her husband while he is deployed. To address this issue, Weis and Ryan present pilot research study findings from a mentoring intervention program facilitated by nurses who intimately understand the military. They found that military spouses desire support groups throughout their pregnancies, and support groups help women cope with pregnancy changes while separated from their husbands and extended families, particularly their mothers. The findings indicated that women who regularly communicated with their deployed husbands appreciated a decreased level of stress.
Last, Foster and colleagues describe a Tri-Service (Army, Navy, and Air Force) perspective of implementing a Centering Pregnancy program. This program allows pregnant women to share with others at the same stage of pregnancy within a military context. The importance of social support during pregnancy for military families is critical. Deployed husbands can maintain focus on their the military missions if they believe their wives’ health care and social needs are being meet through community connections such as a Centering Pregnancy program.
Officially, the Year of the Military Family was 2009, during which time research efforts were directed to military families. However, research continues to overwhelmingly demonstrate that the role of military families and their extended families is critical to military effectiveness. A body of evidence is growing that supports the need for care of military personal and their families during times of preparation for separation, during separation, and reintegration from deployment.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions of this presentation are of the author and do not represent the position of the United States Air Force, Department of Defense, or the United States government.