About the Conference
Thank you for your service…is spoken more frequently in recent years, and deservedly so, to active duty military personnel and veterans. This expression of gratitude from an American public is often tempered by the private realities of physical and emotional challenges faced by those who have served and by their families. Health care professionals witness the visible and the not-so-visible scars associated with military services. Responding with effective prevention and intervention strategies requires not only an application of knowledge and skills of one’s professional training as a nurse, counselor, or other health care provider, but also an understanding of the unique experiences of military life. For example, a growing body of research and clinical experience has emerged regarding the impact of the military culture on attitudes toward and responses to treatment.
In the Fall Semester of 2012, faculty members of the St. John Fisher College Wegmans School of Nursing (WSoN) made a commitment to address the issue of military cultural competence and pay more attention to meeting the unique health and wellness needs of veterans and their families in course work and in the acquisition and dissemination of veteran-specific learning materials. The Undergraduate Curriculum Committee of nursing faculty undertook a rigorous review of required and elective courses to assess course content and determined where veterans’ issues were being addressed and what adjustments could be made to improve training on topics relevant to veterans’ health care. A Veterans’ Health Care Blackboard Resource Site has been developed that posts references to books, articles, web resources, videos, podcasts, and webinars on military and veteran-related topics and has links to local, regional, and national organizations that promote health and wellness initiatives for veterans and their families.
The Mental Health Counseling Program, a graduate-level program in the WSoN, is similarly committed to infuse military cultural competence and care of veterans in its curriculum. A new required course in crisis and trauma counseling includes a section that addresses the effects of combat-related trauma and explores survivor guilt. The program has invited guest lecturers from the Department of Veterans Affairs to share their perspectives on suicide prevention, substance abuse treatment of veterans, and on the effects of deployment on military families. Other initiatives of the WSoN are in the planning stage: a book discussion club for faculty who wish to increase their knowledge and sensitivity to the experiences of veterans and a multidisciplinary elective course on veterans’ health care.
The idea for this conference grew out of the enthusiasm generated by these internal initiatives and has been nurtured by the support and encouragement of our professional colleagues who have served as our planning committee. They have helped us identify clinicians, educators, researchers, and individuals personally touched by military deployment who are well-qualified to speak about physical and mental health concerns of veterans, military personnel, and their families. Our speakers have embraced our conference objectives in their willingness to offer workshops that promote the themes of military cultural competence, an integrated approach to the assessment and treatment of medical and emotional conditions and identifying and utilizing community resources to promote wellness.
We are looking forward to hosting this conference and hope that it is a source of information and inspiration to help all of us better serve the health care needs of veterans, military personnel, and their families.
Dianne Cooney Miner, Ph.D., RN, CNS
Founding Dean, Wegmans School of Nursing
Douglas L. Bufano, Ph.D., LMHC, CASAC
Adjunct Associate Professor, Mental Health Counseling Program
Co-Chairpersons, Joining Forces Healthcare Conference
Special thanks to individuals on our conference planning committee for your ideas and encouragement.
From St. John Fisher College: Rae Frachel and Tammy Roman (WSoN), Bob Moline (Office of Institutional Advancement), Kate Torok and Jody Benedict (Office of Marketing and Communications)
From US Army: CPT. Sarah Eccleston (Ft. Dix), CPT. Kristen Shear (Ft. Drum)
From Department of Veterans Affairs: Kai Chitaphong, Libby Louer-Thompson, Patricia Lind, Dianne Schmidt-Ciminelli
From Community Agencies: Deborah Johnson (The Children’s Institute), Jody Todd Manly (Mt. Hope Family Center)