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Mattocks K, Casares J, Brown A, Bean-Mayberry B, Goldstein KM, Driscoll M, Haskell S, Bastian L, Brandt C. Women Veterans' Experiences with Perceived Gender Bias in U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Specialty Care. Women's health issues : official publication of the Jacobs Institute of Women's Health. 2020 Mar 1; 30(2):113-119.
BACKGROUND: In the past decade, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has responded to a dramatic increase in women veterans seeking care by expanding Women''s Health training to more than 5,000 women''s health primary care providers and changing the culture of the VA to be more inclusive of women veterans. These initiatives have resulted in increased patient satisfaction and quality of care, but have focused mostly on primary care settings. Less is known about women''s experiences in specialty care within VA. This qualitative study sought to examine women veterans'' experiences with VA specialty care providers, with a focus on cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, and mental health care settings. METHODS: Semistructured interviews were conducted with 80 women veterans who served during the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts at four VA facilities nationwide. Interviews focused on understanding women veterans'' experiences with VA specialty care providers, including their perceptions of gender bias. RESULTS: Four major themes emerged from interviews, including that 1) women did not feel that VA specialty care providers listened to them or took their symptoms seriously, 2) women were told their health conditions or symptoms were attributable to hormonal fluctuations, 3) women noted differences in care based on whether the VA specialty provider was male or female, and 4) women provided recommendations for how gender-sensitive specialty care might be improved. CONCLUSIONS: This study is the first to highlight the perceived gender bias experienced by women veterans in VA specialty care. Women felt that their symptoms were disregarded or diminished by their specialty care providers. Although women veterans report positive experiences within women''s health clinics and the primary care setting, their negative experiences in VA specialty care suggest that some providers may harbor unintentional or unconscious gender biases.