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Provider Gender Sensitivity Is Associated with Trauma-Sensitive Communication Among Women Veterans
Than C, Needleman J, Washington DL, Chuang E, Canelo I, Rose DE, Yano EM. Provider Gender Sensitivity Is Associated with Trauma-Sensitive Communication Among Women Veterans. [Abstract]. Health services research. 2020 Aug 20; 55(S1):140-141.
Research suggests that about 80% of women veterans receiving care at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) have experienced at least one trauma in their lifetimes, including military sexual trauma or combat-related trauma. Trauma-sensitive communication reflects an understanding of the impact of trauma and the needs of trauma survivors during health care encounters. We explored whether provider gender sensitivity is associated with positive ratings of trauma-sensitive communication among women veteran patients.
We conducted cross-sectional surveys of providers to measure provider gender sensitivity using 10 survey items adapted from the Gender Awareness Inventory-VA. Example items included "Sometimes I wish VA primary care clinics had only male patients." We averaged responses in 5-point Likert scales to create a composite score, with a higher score indicating higher sensitivity. We used cross-sectional surveys of patients to measure women veterans' perspectives of trauma-sensitive communication: providers (1) asked about any serious problems or stresses in life (yes vs no), (2) made sure they were comfortable before any treatments or examinations (always vs otherwise), and (3) made them feel comfortable talking about emotional issues (very comfortable vs otherwise). We linked survey responses of providers to women veterans via VA primary care visit information in 2014. We used logistic regression to predict each measure of trauma-sensitive communication, controlling for women veterans' age, race, and ethnicity, a service-connected disability, military sexual trauma, physical and mental comorbidities, and primary care and mental health visits in 2014. All analyses were weighted for survey nonresponses.
A total of 94 primary care providers (PCPs) (33% response rate) and 1395 women veterans (45% response rate) from 12 VA medical centers (VAMCs) completed the surveys between 2014 and 2015. After linking women veterans to PCPs, they had visited for primary care or women's health at the same 12 VAMCs in 2014, and the analyses included 804 women veterans and 58 PCPs who responded to the surveys.
Overall, 80.3% of women veterans reported that their PCPs asked about any serious problems or stresses in life, 79.3% reported that PCPs always made sure they were comfortable before any treatments or examinations, and 55.6% felt very comfortable talking with PCPs about emotional issues. After adjusting for covariates, higher provider gender sensitivity score was associated with more women veterans reporting that (1) PCPs asked about any serious problems or stresses in life (AOR: 1.33, 95% CI: 1.08-1.63), (2) PCPs always made sure they were comfortable before any treatments or examinations (AOR: 1.10, 95% CI: 0.91-1.34), and (3) they felt very comfortable talking with PCPs about emotional issues (AOR: 1.11, 95% CI: 0.93-1.30).
Overall, women veterans' ratings of trauma-sensitive communication were positive. Higher provider sensitivity was associated with greater trauma-sensitive communication.
Implications for Policy or Practice
Strategies to improve provider readiness to care for women veterans and their gender sensitivity can improve trauma-sensitive communication with women veterans.
Primary Funding Source
Department of Veterans Affairs.