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Caring for military spouses in primary care


  • Disclaimer

    The views expressed are those of the authors and do not reflect the views, official policy or position of the Uniformed Services University, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.


Diane L. Padden, PhD, CRNP, FAANP, Graduate School of Nursing, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, 4301 Jones Bridge Road, Bethesda, MD 20814. Tel: 301-295-1004; Fax: 301-295-1707; E-mail:



To provide primary care providers with knowledge of unique challenges faced by military families. By understanding how military families cope with military lifestyle and deployment, providers can be more effective in their care of these patients and offer assistance in optimizing their health.

Data sources

Research articles, World Wide Web search of resources for military families and Department of Defense documents.


Military families are faced with many challenges and hardships such as frequent geographic relocations, social isolation, periodic deployments and separations, and risk of injury and death. Unique stressors associated with deployment include assumption of single parent role, altered finances, change in social support from family and friends, and concerns for the safety of the service member. Ineffective coping with stressors can manifest both physically and/or psychologically.

Implications for practice

Healthcare providers should routinely inquire about a patient's possible military affiliation. Military spouses need to be assessed for current stress levels and coping behaviors used in order to provide the most appropriate recommendations and referrals. As healthcare providers, understanding the unique demands of the military lifestyle is necessary to provide effective quality care with optimal health outcomes in this population.