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USF Health provides a helping hand to women veterans

Nearly 450 clinicians have trained at CAMLS so far. ORACLE FILE PHOTO

USF Health’s Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation (CAMLS) has created a new program to educate Veterans Affairs-employed clinicians on how to take better care of their female patients. 

Fully funded by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the program will train doctors and nurses from around the country to properly address the health issues of nearly 2 million women veterans. 

A VA press release last month explained the specific training clinicians are given in the 2 1/2-day sessions. This program gives “VA’s women’s health providers experience in conducting breast and pelvic exams with the help of trained Gynecological Teaching Associates (GTAs).”

Instead of manikins, participants will interact with real people to obtain the full effect of treating female veterans. 

“The USF Health Morsani College of Medicine supports the program with standardized patients known as GTAs,” said Paul Ayres, director of Business Development and Marketing for CAMLS, in an email to The Oracle. “They can offer feedback on communication skills and how best to approach a female patient.” 

In the Aug. 15 press conference, Dr. Christine Kolehmainen, director of VA Women’s Health Education, cited significant growth in women choosing VA care. 

“Since 2001, the number of women veterans seeking VA care has grown 200 percent, from 160,000 to over 500,000,” Kolehmainen said. 

The new program is intended to help clinicians be equipped to service the rise in female patients, according to Ayres. 

“For years, the doctors and nurses at the VA have been seeing mainly men,” said Ayres. “With the influx of women, it is important that the doctors and nurses take part in this mini-residency to sharpen their skills in caring for women.”

Nearly 450 clinicians have trained at CAMLS in the two — July and August — sessions that have taken place. Participants come from all over the U.S., with the August session including doctors from Anchorage, Alaska, according to Ayres. The program is free for all doctors and nurses who participate.

For the past eight years, the program had been held at UCF.

“The VA placed the program out for bid in early 2019 and CAMLS won the contract,” said Ayres. “This is a five-year contract and will run through 2022.”

Ayres said he believed CAMLS was awarded the contract because it has the resources available to optimize the training initiative. 

“CAMLS [has the] ability to offer true clinical settings in which the doctors and nurses can learn,” Ayres said. “The 12 exam rooms used by the participants are the perfect environments to go through this training program.”

Ayres has received responses from participants of the program who took this training and integrated it into their appointments. 

“The feedback on the experiences of the learners has been extremely positive,” Ayres stated. “The learners feel better prepared to care for their female patients and understand better what issues they face.”