By Women’s Health Services, Office of Patient Care Services

simLEARN_logoVeterans Health Administration (VHA) trained nearly 400 health care professionals in its women’s health mini-residency programs in Orlando, June 16-18 and July 28-30. VHA boasts women’s health mini-residencies, which are comprehensive 3-day programs for several professions including providers and nurses in primary care and emergency care. The programs this summer marked 2,400 primary care providers trained during these mini-residencies over the past seven years. In addition, over 500 other professionals in primary care and emergency care have been trained in women’s health mini-residencies specific to their professions.

The innovative programs, which incorporate pelvic and breast exam instruction using simulation training equipment and live, trained models, are the result of a collaboration between VHA’s Women’s Health Services, VHA’s Employee Education System (EES) and SimLEARN. The SimLEARN program assists by providing equipment and some staff to conduct training.

Developed by women Veterans health clinical experts, the mini-residency programs continue to further VHA’s progress in reaching the goal of implementing comprehensive primary care for women and ensuring that women receive state-of-the-art emergency care at all VHA sites of care. Topics covered in the three-day course included pelvic pain, vaginal bleeding, breast issues, contraception, as well as post-deployment issues and military sexual trauma. Participants rotated through a simulation training lab that is set up at the main conference site, as well as trained with standardized patients (live actors) in the clinical skills and simulation center at the University of Central Florida College of Medicine.

The mini-residencies in primary care and emergency care have been adapted to train inter-professional audiences, providing training in a manner that mimics how care is delivered – in teams. For the past two years a large number of provider-nurse pairs have been able to attend the mini-residency programs together to take advantage of these new programs and return to their facilities to further enhance the care of women Veterans at their sites.

There are currently more than 2.2 million living women Veterans. Over 650,000 of them were enrolled in VHA for health care services in fiscal year 2015. This number rose substantially in recent years. Due to this rapid growth, ensuring that VA has the best training for its providers continues to be a priority.

“We launched the primary care provider mini-residencies in 2008 as a way to proactively prepare our clinicians for the record influx of women Veterans,” said Patricia Hayes, chief consultant, Women’s Health Services. “I am thrilled that we have trained so many clinicians and see this as a major step toward having every woman Veteran who comes to VA seen by clinical professionals who are both interested and proficient in women’s health care.”

“Looking forward, we hope to continue to refine and expand our training programs, making them more accessible by utilizing new technologies and other innovative ways to deliver training,” said Dr. Laure Veet, director, Women’s Health Education, VHA Women’s Health Services. “We also look forward to refining plans to help clinical staff stay up-to-date on the latest advancements in women Veterans health care after this initial training.”

For more information about VA programs and services for women Veterans, please visit: www.va.gov/womenvet and www.womenshealth.va.gov.