DES MOINES, Iowa — Even though the majority of those serving in the armed forces are men, the VA hospital of Central Iowa says more and more women are serving each year. That is why they are making sure women’s health care needs are met.
More than 2,000 women veterans are registered at the VA hospital of Central Iowa, and the hospital says that number is growing.
“Here at Central Iowa, we’re seeing about 5 to 6% of women’s population within the veterans that we serve, which is around 34,000 veterans in a 42-county area,” VA Central Iowa Healthcare System Public Affairs Officer Jerry Self said.
The VA said the medical field is evolving to meet women’s health care needs.
“Women have special issues; their needs are different than men’s,” Women Veteran’s Program Manager and Nurse Bev Erskine said. “It used to be that if women had urinary incontinence and we see that a lot with our military women because they carried heavy artillery, then they come home and bore children and all of a sudden, they realize that their pelvic floor has weakened.”
Instead of having these women go through surgery, “How do we keep them at home, with their children, and their family and at their jobs so they don’t have to have those post-surgical recovery times we now have them go out and work with a physical therapist,” Erskine said.
Making women feel comfortable and safe is a top priority.
“They have been damaged spiritually, physically, mentally,” Erskine said. “A lot of times people who have suffered a traumatic event in their life, whether it be an IED that has exploded or maybe it is sexual trauma, there can be triggers.”
To minimize those triggers, the VA has a closed off part of the hospital where the veterans will only be treated by female providers, like Cassandra Isley, a Radiologic Technologist and Mammographer.
“Well, being a woman veteran myself and having now those services offered at the VA, we’re getting a lot of services for women veterans, so I just wanted to be a part of that,” Isley said.
Services include the call center where female therapists and pharmacists are on staff.
“I’ve gone there for some therapy myself, every once in awhile, you just need someone to talk to,” Isley said.
“It’s just that I hear the stories, and they’re the most intimate stories if you will, that effects their life, they carry that with them for the rest of their life so if one person … if I can change her life I want to. And we do! We really do,” Erskine said.
The VA Hospital partners with different health care professionals and organizations in the community, such as Count the Kicks, to make sure their women veterans have all their health care needs met.