Each year thousands of men and women leave the military and return to civilian life after enduring horrors on the battlefield. While returning to civilian life poses its own unique challenges, many veterans also struggle with PTSD, substance abuse, relationship problems, depression and other forms of mental illness that result in a greater need for mental healthcare providers and services.
Mental Health Services Provided by the VA
Veterans Affairs treats over one million patients per year and offers round-the-clock access to mental health providers. Some ways vets can receive treatment include:
- Walking into their local VA or vet center
- Calling the local VA or vet center
- Calling the mental health crisis hotline
- Starting a confidential veterans chat
- Texting 838355 to connect with a crisis specialist
Mental Healthcare Lacking in Rural Areas
Even with the resources available through the VA, 70 percent of veterans who lost their lives to suicide had not been connected to mental healthcare through the VA. In fact, those living in rural communities rarely have access to the care they need despite the fact that almost a quarter of veterans reside in rural areas after returning to civilian life. Some unique issues these veterans face are:
- Limited broadband internet (this also prevents them from utilizing the VA's telehealth services)
- Fewer health service clinics and healthcare providers
- Lack of awareness of treatments offered by the VA
- Lack of transportation to reach a VA location or vet center
Physicians Treating Veterans
Veterans are not the only ones suffering due to the lack of mental healthcare coverage. The high demand for mental healthcare professionals to treat veterans can emotionally affect the physicians trying to provide quality patient care.
Current findings show that physician burnout in the VA psychiatric workforce is prevalent. More specifically, this study found that physicians working in psychiatric VA programs experienced a high level of cynicism with an intent to leave, lack of control, poor team cohesion, and lack of resources leading to exhaustion.
How Locum Tenens Can Help: Locum tenens psychiatrists play an important role in combating veteran suicide rates, especially in rural communities. Not only can these physicians fill positions in understaffed facilities, they can also provide necessary relief to physicians experiencing burnout, thus ensuring patients receive only the highest quality care.
If you are a psychiatrist who would like to help our heroes through a locum tenens opportunity, please contact a recruiter.