Athletic Training Program Incorporates Green Zone Training Into Curriculum

January 2023 - Dr. Lindsey Schroeder, associate professor and clinical education coordinator in the athletic training program within the School of Health and Applied Human Sciences has worked to implement Green Zone training into curriculum. Schroeder worked with UNCW’s Office of Military Affairs to design the Athletic Training Green Zone training to help students reflect on the potential for interaction with patients representing the military-affiliated communities.

Schroeder says of the initiative, “By learning more about the special population of military-affiliated individuals, in and of itself a diverse population, future athletic trainers develop an understanding of how to approach people with a military background from a place of respect and curiosity.” She points out that by combining what they have learned in the Green Zone training with information gleaned from safe zone training and other diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, athletic training students will become well-rounded, empathetic practitioners who are sensitive to the needs of the patients or clients they serve.

“We do this training in the cultural competency aspect of our program because, especially where we live, it's vital that students and future practitioners understand the unique community that is military. They have their own culture that is unique,” Schroeder says. “Diversity, equity, and inclusion training in academic programming has evolved in recent years to address racial minority and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer individuals. These groups merit inclusion in this type of programming of the military-affiliated population.”

Green Zone training addresses military culture, the transition to veteran life and support on campus. Training beings by examining the background of veterans by considering the principles that guided their professional development in the military. Through interactive exercises, participants identify the branches of the military and what service members of each branch are called. Next, the training identifies the challenges service members experience as they transition away from the supportive structure of the military to the college campus structure. This phase of the workshop encourages individuals to consider equity for student veterans to identify policies, procedures and programming that allow student veterans to enter college on a level playing field.

Finally, the training outlines the measures that UNCW has taken to help student veterans and their family members feel included on campus. This phase of the training invites participants to consider their role as campus representatives. They are asked to reflect on how they can contribute to a welcoming and inclusive environment for military affiliates. “I encourage every faculty and staff member who hasn't done it to do it, because I see the value that it has for our students,” Schroeder says.

As athletic trainers work in a wide spectrum of health care and health-care-adjacent settings, it is vital that practitioners understand the different ways that military and veteran families tend to interact with the health care system. Two of the most beneficial areas of Green Zone Training are the overall health of veterans and military families and the overall health care literacy of these patients or clients. Educating athletic training students on how the military health care system works can facilitate understanding of veterans’ health care literacy barriers.

Health care literacy is the ability to obtain, read, understand, and use healthcare information in order to make appropriate health decisions and follow instructions for treatment. Health care is of the utmost importance to military readiness, so the military invests time, money, and effort in ensuring that its members’ health care is maintained. Many veterans have difficulty adjusting to the idea that in civilian life, they now need to learn to maintain their health care by seeking medical experts and making appointments for routine checkups or to follow up on referral appointments on their own. Athletic trainers who engage with veterans in clinical practice may have to assist these patients in navigating the health care system through patient education.