Find common veterans health and medical topics starting with the letter N that are related to military service history. The guide covers health topics from A to Z. Read on for more information about noise exposure, nicotine addiction, VA nursing home benefits and more VA health topics in the N category.
This is an ongoing series and more veterans health topics and letters are coming soon.
Note: What follows should not be taken as medical advice and is not intended as a diagnosis. This page is general information related to common veterans conditions and should not replace advice from your health care provider.
National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
The Department of Veterans Affairs National Center For Posttraumatic Stress Disorder is described by the VA as “the world’s leading research and educational center of excellence on PTSD and traumatic stress.”
The mission of this part of the VA includes the advancement of “clinical care and social welfare of America’s Veterans and others who have experienced trauma, or who suffer from PTSD.” This is accomplished through research, education and awareness-raising, and training.
Veterans who suffer from PTSD should know that the VA official site advertises services available at all VA medical centers, with many facilities offering “specialized PTSD programs.” The National Center of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder does not provide direct care, but is dedicated to (among many other things) helping veterans find the care they need and learn more about the condition.
PTSD is defined by the VA official site as a mental health problem that may develop “after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event, like combat, a natural disaster, a car accident, or sexual assault.”
It is common to have PTSD-like symptoms immediately following a traumatic event or soon after, but if those symptoms persist more than a few months, it is very important to seek help and a diagnosis as PTSD is a likely cause of such persistent symptoms.
The VA official site has many resources to help veterans find a therapist or get immediate help for PTSD. If you experience a personal crisis that is (or is not) related to PTSD, consider calling the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255, and press 1.
National Center for Patient Safety
The VA National Center for Patient Safety was established to create and further patient safety as a “culture” within the VA. The center, started in 1999, is part of the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Quality, Safety and Value.
This program includes the assignment of “patient safety managers” at more than 160 VA medical centers. There are also patient safety officers assigned to more than 20 VA regional headquarters.
This patient safety program has resulted in a mention in a report by The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) which includes the following quote;
“Veterans Affairs hospitals had better outcomes than non-VA hospitals for 6 of 9 [Patient Safety Indicators] PSIs. There were no significant differences for the other 3 PSIs. In addition, VA hospitals had better outcomes for all the mortality and readmissions metrics.”
This program encourages patients to get proactive about their own care. The VA official site asks, What does the veteran’s involvement in patient safety mean? Part of the picture is the expectation that patients will provide detailed information about their conditions to the care provider, but also, “that you should clearly understand your diagnosis and treatment plan and know what to expect.”
The patient is expected to keep the VA informed of any changes to a condition being treated (positive or negative) but it also requires the VA to listen and respond, “when you have a question about any aspect of your care.” You can learn more about this program at the VA official site.
Smoking cessation is a big topic in military circles for veterans and currently serving troops alike. Cigarettes, as most know, contain nicotine, which is said to be as addictive as opioids. People get addicted to the nicotine in cigarettes because of the release of certain neurotransmitters (including dopamine) in the brain while smoking. This “reinforces continued tobacco use” according to the University of California San Francisco.
Tobacco and nicotine dependence are complicated issues which are affected by:
- How the individual’s body processes nicotine
- How nicotine is absorbed / removed by the human body
- Other lifestyle choices such as smoking with coffee or alcohol
- The smoker’s genetic predisposition to addiction or addictive behaviors
Veterans and family members who stop smoking will notice withdrawal symptoms in one to two days after quitting. Nicotine withdrawal includes but may not be limited to symptoms such as:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Increased appetite and weight gain
- Sleep disturbances
The Department of Veterans Affairs official site advises those who are considering kicking the tobacco habit to do some important things to help themselves quit:
- List the reasons you want to quit.
- Set a date to stop using tobacco products.
- Make a plan to deal with nicotine cravings.
- Talk to your doctor.
- Investigate options for counseling and tobacco cessation medicines.
- Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669)
Military service exposes veterans to high volumes of noise and vibration, which can result over time in hearing damage and related issues. And it’s not just sudden instances of loud noises such as gunfire or explosions. Aircraft engine noise and continuously running motors or other equipment may operate at sound pressure levels high enough to damage hearing over time.
Hearing damage, hearing loss, tinnitus, and other conditions related to noise exposure are common among veterans. If you have or are worried about health problems associated with noise exposure and military service, the VA encourages you to begin addressing the issue(s) by making an appointment with a health care provider.
You may also contact your local VA Environmental Health Coordinator. This link takes you to a page that has contact information listed by state.
If you have service-connected hearing damage or related issues you may be eligible for VA compensation-file a claim for disability compensation and let the VA review your case. It is important to do this as early as possible before retiring or separating, so be sure to look into filing a VA medical claim before you leave the service.
Norovirus is described by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as a “very contagious” virus that is the leading cause of foodborne illness. You may hear cases of norovirus described as food poisoning, stomach flu, or related terms; this infection is not technically associated with the flu virus and is a separate medical concern from influenza.
Symptoms of norovirus include:
- Stomach pain
The CDC warns that any person can catch the norovirus under the right circumstances:
- Direct contact with someone who already has norovirus
- Consuming food or water contaminated with the virus
- Touching contaminated surfaces
Frequent hand-washing is one preventive measure against norovirus, especially when dealing with others who may be infected. Where food-bourne pathogens are concerned, you can take the same steps to prevent the spread of norovirus as you would to protect against e.coli, salmonella, and other issues:
- Wash all fruits and vegetables before eating or cooking with them;
- Completely cook all shellfish, meat, and other raw animal products;
- Do not perform food prep for other people if you are sick;
- Be aware of the most likely causes of contamination (undercooking, lack of washing, etc.)
While norovirus is not a condition you may need long-term VA care for, it can be a serious medical issue due to the symptoms and dehydration as a result of them. Do not neglect hydration if you are exposed to norovirus and consult your primary care physician for treatment and advice if you feel symptoms of, or similar to norovirus.
The Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Nursing Services (ONS) was created to provide leadership and policy on “all issues related to nursing practice.”
The VA offers many nursing and nursing-related programs such as Geriatrics and Extended Care, Respite Care, and compensation for those who need skilled care, nursing home care, palliative care, etc. But the VA nursing program is also a place where veterans can find new careers.
The VA has several programs that can assist veterans in getting into careers in nursing. The first and most obvious is the GI Bill benefit, but VA options also include residency options for those in training.
The VA website says the agency “takes pride in providing the largest education and training enterprise for health professionals” in the United States thanks to partnerships with academic residency sponsors.
“VA offers physician residents exposure to the largest integrated health care delivery system in the United States with seamless electronic health records and unique learning opportunities and specialties, all in service to our Nation’s Veterans.”
Thanks to the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014, the VA was able to add “1500 new GME physician residency positions over 5 years with an emphasis on primary care, mental health, and critically needed specialties.” There are a wide range of training, residency, and post-residency career options available through the VA in the field of nursing.
Nutrition: Food Allergies
Some veterans enter military service unaware of certain food allergies they may already have or develop over time. While food allergies are not specifically a service-connected medical issue, such allergies can affect certain kinds of treatment for medical conditions you may be undergoing thru the VA medical system or as a part of your overall medical treatment plan.
The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (JACI) warns about something called excipients, which are substances in medication that are not considered active ingredients. These excipients are harmless to many.
But as the JACI official site advises, “Some excipients are foods or substances derived from foods, raising the possibility that these substances would pose a hazard to patients with food allergy.”
Such reactions are described as “rare”, but for those suffering from certain types of food-related allergies, these excipients can be a real concern.
It is always best to inform your primary care provider, VA health representative, or any other caregiver you may need to work with about any food allergies at all. This can help your care team find the right medication or treatment for you without risking an aggravation of a known allergy.
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