Armed forces day

Armed Forces Day

Saturday 29 June is Armed Forces Day – the nation’s annual opportunity to celebrate the incredible work of our Armed Forces. In this blog, Ana Da Silva Vicente, a Sister on our inpatient Unit and our Armed Forces Service Champion, explores how asking about military service supports Martlets’ person-centred approach to palliative care. 

Palliative care is not limited to end-of-life care; it is appropriate at any stage of a serious illness and can be provided alongside curative treatments. The goal is to alleviate symptoms such as pain, nausea, and breathlessness, and to support patients and their families emotionally, socially, and spiritually. By adopting a holistic approach, palliative care teams strive to offer person-centred care, which tailors interventions to meet the individual needs and preferences of each patient.  

Ana our Armed Forces Service Champion smiling in front of flowersA question of respect 

A crucial aspect of delivering high-quality palliative care is recognising and addressing the unique needs of different patient groups. One question which is often overlooked yet can significantly impact the care provided is, have you or any member of your family served in the armed forces? 

As a nurse on Martlets’ inpatient wards, I wear a badge that identifies me as Armed Forces service champion for our clinical team. It’s an honour to wear this badge and I have had patients and family members remark on it if they have connections with the Forces. It’s a useful conversation starter that helps me and the team understand how we might best offer person-centred care.

Asking the question about Armed Forces involvement can also help with this process. For example, the relative of a recent patient had served in the military and it was my badge that started the conversation. She was very close to this loved one and wanted to share memories of him with me, particularly during the UK’s D-Day remembrance event. We were able to bring some poppies from our hospice gardens into her room and to create a special area on a table that recognised his service. It was a small thing that really made a big difference to her and her family.

Our armed forces day display at the hospice

The significance of military service  

Asking about military service is particularly important in the context of palliative care for several reasons:  

  • Tailored support and resources: Veterans and their families may have access to specific resources and support networks that can significantly enhance their care experience. Identifying military service early allows healthcare providers to connect patients with these resources, including specialised medical care, financial support, and counselling services.  
  • Understanding unique health needs: Veterans may have unique health conditions related to their service, exposure to hazardous substances, or combat-related injuries. Recognising these conditions enables palliative care teams to address them more effectively, ensuring that the patient receives comprehensive and appropriate care.  
  • Honouring service and sacrifice: Acknowledging a patient’s military service is a way of honouring their contributions and sacrifices. This recognition can have a profound emotional impact, fostering a sense of dignity and respect that is crucial for their overall wellbeing.  

Person-centred care and the Armed Forces 

Person-centred care is at the heart of effective palliative care. It involves seeing the patient as a whole person, considering their values, preferences, and unique life experiences. For veterans, this means acknowledging the impact of their service on their health and wellbeing and integrating this understanding into their care plan. In the UK, the commitment to providing exceptional care for veterans is evident through initiatives such as the Armed Forces Covenant, which pledges to ensure that those who serve or have served in the armed forces, and their families, are treated fairly. This means understanding specific healthcare needs for service-related conditions and tailored support for end-of-life care.  

The UK: a safe place for veterans to live and die  

The UK aims to be the best place for veterans to live and die with dignity and support. Incorporating the question, ‘Have you or any member of your family served in the armed forces?’ into palliative care assessments is a simple yet powerful way to enhance person-centred care. By acknowledging military service, we can offer more tailored support, address unique health needs, and honour the service and sacrifices of veterans. The UK’s commitment to being the best place for veterans to live and die underscores the importance of this approach, ensuring that those who have served receive the compassionate and comprehensive care they deserve. 

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Published 27/06/2024