SRF028: From Canadian Forces Health Services to Provincial Primary Care During Transition to Civilian Life: A Qualitative Study

Ashley Williams, MSc, OT Reg. (Ont.); Catherine Donnelly, PhD; Brent Wolfrom, MD; Heidi Cramm, PhD


Authors: Williams, A., Cramm, H., Donnelly, C., Pedlar, D., & Wolfrom, B.
Context: Approximately 5000 Regular Force Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members leave the military annually. During service, military members access the Canadian Forces Health Services (CFHS) and, after release, must transition to provincial primary care. Veterans are more likely to experience health problems than the general population and recent research indicates that primary care is an important source of healthcare for Veterans. Concerns have been expressed about the capacity of provincial health systems, including primary care, to address the health needs of Veterans. No studies have investigated Veterans’ experience of transitioning from the CFHS to provincial primary care during military to civilian transition. Objective: to increase understanding of this experience. Human Subjects Review: Queen’s University Health Sciences Research Ethics Board Delegated review. Design: A qualitative phenomenology. Setting: This study is being conducted in Canada. A purposive sample of 16 CAF Regular Force veterans who released between 6 months and 3 years ago was recruited to participate in individual interviews which focused on their experience of accessing primary care during their transition to civilian life. The sample has representation from a range of service elements (i.e., Army, Navy, Air Force), ranks, and release types (e.g., medical, voluntary). Anticipated Results: Data analysis is ongoing and preliminary results indicate that the health service transition is abrupt. There was a wide range of experiences with some participants being able to find a primary care provider and others not. Participants describe using provincial wait lists and personal contacts to find a primary care provider. Those unable to secure a regular primary care provider report accessing walk-in, urgent, and emergency services. Those with ongoing health issues reported the transition to provincial primary care to be particularly stressful with some describing unmet health needs. Most participants describe little formal support for the health service transition and made recommendations for enhancing support, such as temporarily extending access to the CFHS after the release date. Conclusion: Transition to provincial primary care may be a challenging aspect of the military release process for Canadian Veterans. Recommendations for improved support and future research will be made.
Leave a Comment
Jack 11/21/2020

great work. thanks

Ashley 11/22/2020

Thanks Jack.

Tyler Barreto

Great work! Based on your findings here, what ideas do you have to improve the transition? Thank you!

Ashley 11/22/2020

Thanks, Tyler and thanks for your question. I think that making the health service transition a more formal part of the overall transition process would likely help, especially for Veterans with ongoing chronic health issues who may not have connections in the community they are releasing into. Based on the experiences of the participants in this study, this is something that is mentioned as part of the transition process but there isn't much formal support outside of that. I also think collaborating with primary care clinicians, especially in areas where there are a lot of Veterans living, to look for ways to facilitate attachment to primary care for Veterans might also be helpful. I'm sure more ideas will arise as I continue to complete more in-depth analysis.

Bill Phillips 11/23/2020

Great study, well presented. Cooll video. Thanks for sharing it at NAPCRG. Transitions are always difficult. Is there some theoretical model of transition more generally that might help organize these studies and services?

Judy Belle Brown

Hi Ashley!! This is such great work and I am delighted to see how it has progressed! Need to get this published!!! Thrilled to have you at NAPCRG!!

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