WGU MSN Helps Veterans Better Understand Their Health

“Improving Understanding of the Community Care Programs for Veterans and Their Caregivers”
Capstone Project by Gianna Bleyer, M.S. Nursing–Leadership and Management

Effective written and verbal communication is a universal skill every professional should put effort into developing, whether you’re in an entry-level or management role. Gianna Bleyer’s capstone project for her M.S. Nursing–Leadership and Management degree program at WGU underscored the importance of understanding the needs of those you work with or serve.

Gianna, of Lebanon, Pennsylvania, attended nursing school and worked on hospital floors into her 40s until a personal event required her to change roles. At that time, a job opportunity arose with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and she began working in their community health department supporting veterans in their homes in order to keep them out of a nursing home. She had completed an undergraduate degree years earlier, but it was a personal goal to further her education and earn a master’s degree before she turned 50.

A year-and-a-half into her role, Gianna was promoted to program manager. During a discussion with a co-worker she expressed an interest in using her capstone project to make a positive difference within the VA and those they serve, and her co-worker recommended she focus on improving health literacy. Gianna reviewed all aspects of the department’s current program and, while reviewing the different brochures they pass out, discovered a need to improve the health information they were providing veterans.

She conducted research on health literacy and the importance of being able to communicate on a level a patient can understand—starting from diagnosis to the type of service they are provided. Her capstone project was to redesign and simplify the language on the different benefit documents they share and use with veterans and their families to make the benefits easier to understand. The new brochures could also be used to educate new staff.

Using three different electronic tools to assess the documents, Gianna was able to fix readability and suitability to meet national guidelines requiring benefit information be communicated between 5th- and 8th-grade reading levels. The documents were previously written at a 10th-grade reading level. She rewrote the material and redesigned the brochure format, added headings, and deleted a lot of medical jargon.

The 11 most frequently used documents were rewritten first, but Gianna will continue her review and revision until all of the official documentation has been fixed. The approval process within the VA organization takes time as the corrected documents work their way through the chain of command. Her first set of documents are ready for distribution, and new brochures and authorization letters will follow in the coming weeks.

For the second portion of her capstone project, Gianna put together a standard operating procedure (SOP) on how best to create a document. The SOP will ensure that employees in her department understand that any printed department material must follow certain guidelines. The plan will also go through a similar approval process.

With her master’s degree, Gianna hopes to have a further-reaching impact on veterans throughout the United States.

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