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Rural Veterans

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I am a senior at West Virginia University where I am a Rural Health Scholar and am studying Exercise Physiology with plans to become a physical therapist. As a Rural Health Scholar, I have had the pleasure of being part of a module discussing the challenges and problems rural veterans face. While I have learned about the difficulties rural veterans are exposed to, reading articles does not compare to talking to someone who is living this firsthand. As part of this module, I am to start an online discussion with rural veterans.

I have a few questions for any rural veterans who would like to respond. Your answers will help me know how to better help rural veterans when serving as a healthcare provider in the future.

1.       Do you think your rural communities do enough to support you and help you access quality healthcare? What more could rural communities do for you?

2.       Do you think the VA does enough to support you and help you access quality healthcare? What more would you like to see the VA do to help rural veterans?

3.       What is a biggest problem you face trying to access healthcare as a rural veteran?

4.       If you could give me any advice on being a future healthcare provider to rural veterans, what would it be?

I appreciate you taking the time to answer one or more of these questions! I will take time to read each answer and use them to become a better healthcare provider.

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Im gonna answer "even tho" I am currently living in the city because I used to live on a farm.  It may help as I have received both "rural" health care and "city" health care.  

1.  My experience with rural health care is very good.  My doc back in a small town had plenty of time to be thorough in his exams, there were no "waiting rooms" full of patients.  

Quality improves "in proportion to" the amount of time invested.  Of course, "small town" hospitals often lack expensive equipment, but they simply sent me to a nearby city for this when needed.  

2.  For reasons given in number 1, above, rural healthcare is basically superior to "city" healthcare.  Now, at my VAMC I feel like Vets are "herded into the docs office" like cattle.  Mostly, I have maybe 2 minutes with the doc, if any, then he rushes right on to the next patient.  I pity the Veteran who has "more than one" question for the doc.  City docs dont treat the patient, they treat the disease.  If I have a cold AND a very sore knee, I have to "pick" which one is most important because the doc does not have time to examine me for both.   I have confirmed this practice with a family member "who happens to be" a medical doctor in the miltary.  They are on a tight schedule and, when an appointment is made the doc quickly diagnoses the problem, prescribes a solution and herds you out of there.  IF you have multiple problems you need to make multiple doc appointments, and this ususaly results in sometimes critical issues getting overlooked and untreated.  We are making an appointment with the doc, and we assume the doc "cares" about our health and will take whatever time it takes to answer all our questions.  NOPE.  Why did you come in here?  Ok, you cant come in here for several problems, what is your worst one??  (I dont know, they are all bad).

3.  Biggest problem:  Limited hours.  We only had "one" rural doctor, and he needed to sleep, too!  And, he deserved and needed to go "on vacation" once in a while.  We just need to "not get sick" except during the docs limited hours.  Yes, our doc would be "on call", but we dont like to call him unless its an emergency and we are bleeding to death.  

4.  "Be a small town doc".  Dont go to the big city for big bucks.  Your quality of life will be better.  Since we normally dont have enough docs for every small town, we have to "share".  Sometimes docs are in Smalltown1, on Mondays and Fridays, and "smalltown2" on Tuesday Wed and thursdays.  

      Im kinda excited about "video medical appointments".  The doc is in a big city, and you go to small town usa where there is no doc, but a room with a video camera setup.  The doc speaks to you via video conference, and you can show him your "owie" and he can see it on camera.  He can then decide what treatment you need, if any.   Yes, its true the doc can not "palpate your chest" and listen via video, but if he thinks you need more, he can send you to town to see the doc "in person".  The video medical appointments will not work every time, but they would be good for routine treatments, for example, the doc could have your blood drawn, blood pressure taken, xrays if necessary and available, and decide good treatments for you.   

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