NERVANA, the Northeast Region VA Nursing Alliance, hosted a colloquium entitled “Care of the American Veteran: Homelessness” at the University of Massachusetts in Boston on March 29, 2010. The audience included nursing students, registered nurses, educators, social workers, and physicians from the surrounding Boston area.

The purpose of this colloquium was to share ideas for advancing nursing and interdisciplinary practice, education, and research for the care of America’s veterans and their families. Discussion topics included the needs of homeless veterans, caring for the veterans’ mental health, and changing the lives of veterans through education.

I found the introductory presentation regarding homelessness among veterans to be very interesting. It provided an overview of the current homeless veteran situation, including statistics concerning their mental needs and a timeline of estimated homelessness over the last decade. I also enjoyed the section about nursing care, empowerment, and recovery. This segment went into further details about illnesses afflicting homeless veterans such as MTBI and depression, proper care techniques for these individuals, and ways to reach out.

This colloquium provided insight into a topic that often goes overlooked. In fact, many remain completely unaware of the amount of homeless veterans in the country and the special care they necessitate. Prior to attending this event, I was completely oblivious to this issue. A key lesson I took away from this event was the importance of addressing the entire spectrum of the patient population. Health care should be made available to all who need it. It is up to health care providers to discern and treat the needs of each individual separately, alleviating pain and suffering throughout the country and world.