GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Patients who use Trinity Health services in Grand Rapids will answer a new question: “Are you a veteran?”

The health system has a new initiative in place called the Military and Veterans Health Program, aimed at providing better care for those with military experience.

Nurses, providers, doctors, physician assistants and nurse practitioners all went through training on the specific illnesses and disease processes that can occur in veterans. John Foss is the vice president of operations for Trinity Health Shelby Hospital and helped implement the program, which is already in place in Muskegon and Shelby but is currently rolling out in Grand Rapids. He pointed out that nurses who notice a patient who seems agitated and is wearing a band indicating they are a veteran may approach them differently.

“Maybe I’m getting a little irritated or worked up waiting for surgery or waiting in the emergency department. That cues us that, sometimes, veterans have a hard time waiting with not being updated, so I would pull someone aside and say ‘hey, there’s a long wait within our ED tonight. This is what’s going on. This is what you can expect,'” he said.

Foss also pointed out that women in the military are more likely to experience sexual trauma, and knowing their military status may play a role in who their attending physician is when they’re delivering babies. 

Veterans who work in the hospital system also wear identifiers on their badges so patients will know their status.

Beyond providing information for care teams and patients, Foss said the program also helps veterans feel seen. He has a unique understanding since he is also a veteran and patient.

“I got my wristband, and even though I’ve worked with people throughout the health system in Muskegon and Shelby for over 25 years, a lot of them didn’t know I was a veteran. Everyone I came into contact with that day mentioned it, and it made me feel, so honored but then also I knew that they were aware of those special needs I may have,” he said.

Foss said patients have been reluctant, at times, to share their status because they have never been asked the question before during a health visit. He emphasized gathering that information is about getting a complete history, not to be intrusive.

Warrior Centric helped Trinity Health implement the program and provide the necessary training for employees.