The term post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD was created after the Vietnam War, and officially recognized as a medical condition in 1980 (Nursing Times, 2009). Symptoms of PTSD include flashbacks and nightmares; inability to remember and refusal to discuss the war experiences; distance from friends and family; tremors and sweating; insomnia; extreme anger; inability to concentrate and focus; drug and alcohol addictions; failed relationships, including divorce; depression and other illness; physical aches and pains; and trouble finding or keeping a job (Nursing Times, 2009).

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Thirty percent of those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan or 834,463 soldiers have
been diagnosed with PTSD since 9/11, per a 2012 report from the VA (Reno,2012). If they had been deployed multiple times, these soldiers are more than three times likely to be diagnosed with PTSD and depression than those who had never been deployed (Reno, 2012).

The National Center for PTSD was established in 1989 to provide quality care using the safest treatment for optimum recovery for veterans (U. S. Dept. of VA, 2016). Many claim the VA does not accurately record the number of PTSD sufferers (Reno, 2012). Under former President Barack Obama, spending for VA mental health programs increased by more than thirty-three percent (The White House, 2016). The VA hired more than 4,000 mental health professionals and another 1,600 professionals for a total of almost 22,000 mental health clinical staff (Reno, 2012). As more than 10,000 veterans flood VA medical facilities monthly (Reno, 2012), more resources and care will be needed.

Critics maintain the quality of healthcare provided to veterans is substandard. Soldiers who were recovering from military wounds at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington were found languishing in filthy and unsafe facilities (Walker, 2007). Others found it took an exorbitant amount of time to have their disability claims processed – if at all – and were frequently denied medical care.

Quality nursing care is essential to the treatment of PTSD survivors. The American Nurses Foundation created the PTSD toolkit for nurses to learn how to provide care for PTSD survivors (2014). The toolkit is a self-directed e-learning program for nurses to test their knowledge of PTSD and then use the resources to treat PTSD veterans. There are four steps in the toolkit: assessment, identifying PTSD symptoms in veterans; intervention, tips to get veterans talking; referral, guiding veterans to the right resources; and testing your knowledge, try out your interviewing techniques in a simulated case (American Nurses Foundation, 2014).

One important area that nurses can help PTSD survivors with is by developing a treatment plan for their sleep disturbances, a common symptom., and help them sleep again.
Image Rehearsal Therapy (IRH) is effective and teaches patients how to write their specific memories down about war nightmares and then write happy events about the dream (Polick, 2017). Nurses must stress that IRH does not erase traumatic memories, but minimizes bad dreams. Another effective technique is Cognitive Therapy when PTSD victims replace negative thoughts with positive self-talk (Polick, 2017). As they do this, they will develop good emotions and feel more hopeful about life. Nurses must emphasize to PTSD sufferers that it is natural to have negative feelings, based on their horrific experiences of war.

As nurses deal with these PTSD patients, the ANA Code of Ethics for Nurses guides
their commitment to society (ANA, 2001). These veterans served our nation well as they fought for their country and their needs should be dealt with confidentially, respectfully, and thoroughly. We should make sure veterans get optimum care and help them learn how to deal successfully with post-traumatic stress syndrome.

  • American Nurses Association (ANA), (2001). Code of Ethics for Nurses, American Nurses Association, Washington, D.C. Retrieved from phnursing/ethics.php
  • Nursing Times. (2009). Post-traumatic stress disorder. Retrieved from
  • Polick, T. (2017). How to Deal with PTSD Patients. Retrieved from com/benefits/articles/179-how-to-deal-with-ptsd-patients?page=2
  • Reno, J. (2012). Nearly 30% of Vets Treated by V.A. Have PTSD. Retrieved from www.thedaily
  • The American Nurses Foundation. (2014). For Nurses who want to help Veterans with PTSD. Retrieved from
  • The White House. (2016). FACT SHEET: A Record of Serving Our Veterans
  • U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2016). About Quality of Care. Retrieved from
  • U. S. Department of Veterans. (2017.) History of the National Center for PTSD
  • Walker, D. (2007). Vetting the VA. Retrieved from

    Vetting the VA