Meeting the Needs of Rural Veterans: A Qualitative Evaluation of Whole Health Coaches' Expanded Services and Support during COVID-19

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022 Oct 18;19(20):13447. doi: 10.3390/ijerph192013447.


The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore perspectives of Whole Health (WH) coaches at the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) on meeting the needs of rural Veterans during the COVID-19 pandemic. The evaluation design employed a qualitative description approach, employing focus groups and in-depth interviews with a convenience sample of WH coaches across the VHA system. Fourteen coaches who work with rural Veterans participated in either one of three focus groups, individual interviews, or both. The focus group data and in-depth interviews were analyzed separately using thematic analysis, and findings were then merged to compare themes across both datasets. Four primary themes were identified: bridging social risk factors for rural Veterans, leveraging technology to stay connected with Veterans at-a-distance, redirecting Veterans to alternate modes of self-care, and maintaining flexibility in coaching role during COVID-19. One overarching theme was also identified following a post-hoc analysis driven by interdisciplinary team discussion: increased concerns for Veteran mental health during COVID-19. Coaches reported using a variety of strategies to respond to the wide-ranging needs of rural Veterans during the pandemic. Implications of findings for future research and practice are discussed.

Keywords: allied health; healthcare; military; pandemic; social determinants of health; telehealth.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Mental Health Services*
  • Pandemics
  • Qualitative Research
  • United States / epidemiology
  • United States Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Veterans* / psychology