New Women Veterans Clinic in Tulsa ensures comfort, safety
BY JERRY WOFFORD World Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
7/18/12 at 5:53 AM
With wooden floors, walls painted in warm colors and photos of the nurses' families on the wall, it's not the typical Department of Veterans Affairs medical center waiting room.
The locked doors also distinguish the new Women Veterans Clinic from the rest of the Tulsa VA outpatient clinic, a comfortable and safe place for one of the fastest-growing sectors of the veteran population.
"This is absolutely a home for our veterans," said Sharalee Savage, a nurse practitioner and one of the three women's team providers. "It lets them take a big, deep breath and relax. We're here as their team."
The facility began accepting patients last month and opened its doors for public tours Tuesday.
Since the Ernest Childers VA Outpatient Clinic, 9322 E. 41st St., opened, nearly 500 female veterans have come to the clinic for care, Savage said.
Female veterans in the Tulsa area now have full access to "comprehensive women's health" at the clinic without having to travel to Muskogee, said Susan Hartsell, the Women Veterans Program manager at the Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center in Muskogee.
Last year, more than 1,700 women were treated at the hospital and clinics in eastern Oklahoma, a 30 percent increase in the number of women treated four years ago. And the number of women who will seek care at VA medical centers and clinics is likely to expand: Fourteen percent of the U.S. military force is female.
In the last decade, VA medical centers have started adjusting and responding to the needs of those women.
"The VA is a man's world," Savage said. "Women talk about their experience in the military, and it's a man's world. This was too long in coming. Too long."
Now, female veterans in Tulsa can get most of the services specific to women's needs at the clinic in a more comfortable environment.
"We will do their well-woman exam, as well as take care of their female needs," Savage said. "This is a one-stop shop, and we think it's a great stop."
Hartsell said mammograms still need to be referred to other clinics in town, with the VA picking up that tab for enrolled veterans. But as the clinics and the need grow - Savage said they expect to be at capacity with 810 women veterans in a year - the services available will begin to expand.
Still, the women's team aims to provide more comfort to the women seeking care than other providers that focus generally on men.
"It is a total different atmosphere from being on the other teams," Savage said. "If a woman is having any exam, another woman is in here, they're behind two locked doors and the curtain is pulled."
The door to the waiting room remains locked to provide the women a sense of security. Comfortable chairs line the walls, and brochures related to women's health are available. The exam rooms have personal touches to make the patients feel more comfortable and at ease.
"We're in a federal facility, but we try to put our touches on it," Savage said.
Original Print Headline: A woman's touch
Jerry Wofford 918-581-8310
The new Women Veterans Clinic at the Ernest Childers VA Outpatient Clinic at 9322 E. 41st St. in Tulsa is intended to serve one of the fastest-growing sectors of the veteran population. KT KING / Tulsa World
The clinic has tried to create a more relaxed atmosphere to encourage female veterans to visit. KT KING / Tulsa World