From Military to Civilian Primary Care: A Study of Veteran Transition

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Williams, Ashley
Military-to-civilian transition , Veteran health , Primary care , Canadian Armed Forces , Qualitative
Background: Military-to-civilian transition (MCT) is generally understood as the process of leaving military service and transitioning to civilian life. Each year, approximately 5000 Regular Force Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members leave the military. During service, CAF members access the military health care system and, after release, must transition to provincial/territorial primary care. Since Veterans experience health problems at greater proportions and use primary care more than the general population, this is an important aspect of MCT. However, no research has investigated Canadian Veterans’ experience of transitioning from the military to the civilian primary care system or how primary care is provided to Veterans. Objectives: To understand the transition from the military to the civilian primary care system and to understand how interprofessional primary care is provided to Veterans in the civilian system. Methods: Three studies were conducted to address these objectives. First, a phenomenological analysis of previously collected qualitative data from CAF members with an upcoming release. Second, a phenomenological study conducted with Veterans after release. Third, a single mixed-methods exploratory case study focusing on how team-based primary care is provided to Veterans. Results: The transition to civilian primary care encompasses anticipation of and preparation for the change in primary care provider (PCP) before the release date, making the leap from military to civilian primary care in the months and years that follow the release date, and eventual landing in the care of a primary care team in the civilian system. Many participants were able to make the transition to civilian primary care with relative ease. However, for those with ongoing health issues requiring consistent access to care, the transition was challenging and had implications for health and well-being. The interprofessional primary care team examined in the case study revealed the importance of Veteran-friendly and culturally competent primary care. Conclusion: The transition to civilian primary care, like MCT more broadly, is complex and variable; continuous access to primary care throughout the transition is important. More research is needed to better understand this underexplored aspect of MCT to better serve transitioning Veterans in the future.
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