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Trauma-informed care is better for you and your family
By Sarah Sebton

Trauma-informed care is a universal approach to how we interact with people who have experienced physical, emotional or psychological trauma. At University Health, we know that life experiences have a profound impact on each person’s well being, and that stress and trauma can lead to poorer health outcomes.

Since we've already written about what trauma-informed care is, now we want to show you what it means for you.

So, how do we recognize the signs and symptoms of trauma and help you on your healing journey? We start by putting these five principles of trauma-informed care into action when we interact with patients.

  • Choice: you have control of your care, including knowing your rights and responsibilities as a patient.
  • Collaboration: we share power and decision making by providing a significant role for you in planning and evaluating care options.
  • Empowerment: we provide an atmosphere that allows you to feel validated and confident in your care.
  • Safety: we ensure physical and emotional safety by making our facilities welcoming and secure.
  • Trust: we are clear and consistent in our interactions with you and maintain respectful professional boundaries with all patients.

Trauma-informed care helps us understand what else you may be healing from beyond your current diagnosis or need. When you trust University Health with your care, we want you to feel safe, supported, and empowered to take part in your own well being.

Here are some hypothetical examples of what trauma-informed care looks like for different types of patients.

Sick with COVID-19

Your friend is sick with COVID-19 and recently went into intensive care. As her symptoms have worsened, she has not seen her family in two weeks. Due to safety precautions, visitors are limited in the hospital at this time.

However, the ICU nurses recognize the importance of socialization and relationships in the recovery process, and help schedule regular video calls with you and her family. These video calls provide the family with a feeling of closeness to their loved one. They may not be present physically, but they can see that their loved one is safe, supported and receiving compassionate care.

Pregnancy with a complicated birth history

Labor and delivery staff learn that one of their patients has a history of miscarriages. As a result, she has openly voiced how important it is to follow her birthing plan as she envisions it. The nurses make it a point to clearly communicate everything they are doing during her labor experience. They make sure to frequently check in on her preferences and comfort level and request her consent at every phase of labor.

Struggling to communicate after a stroke

Your uncle’s recent stroke left him with facial weakness on one side and trouble speaking. He becomes tearful and upset when he is unable to communicate clearly to his nurse. The care team provides reassurance, alternative methods of written communication and the space and empathy he needs to feel comfortable and cared for.

Family dynamics after an accident

A boy suffered injuries in a car accident and is admitted to the pediatric trauma unit at University Hospital. His chart shows there is a history of child welfare involvement in his family, but Child Protective Services is not involved in his care from the accident.

Staff caring for him periodically check-in with each other to remain mindful of their potential biases, recognizing that past difficulties in our lives do not define our ability to be good parents. Staff supports each other in using non-judgmental and non-accusatory language when working with the boy and his family.

Cancer

For many people cancer is one of the most frightening words to hear a doctor say, and you’ve just heard it. You become understandably emotional after receiving the diagnosis. The doctor and your nurses recognize that you’re having a hard time processing the news. You don’t want to talk about medication, treatments, advanced directives or anything else that might acknowledge the reality of this difficult diagnosis.

Your care team instantly acknowledges your emotional trauma and does not press for a discussion right at that moment moment. Instead, they provide information on community resources in a discrete fashion for you to review when you are more emotionally focused and able. They schedule a follow-up appointment with you later in that week to discuss some of the specific next steps to take.

Compassionate care means caring for you as a whole person

Trauma-informed care means understanding that your needs as a patient go beyond your current medical condition. The training our staff receives to apply this model to every patient experience allows us to provide even more compassionate care.

Understand the physical, emotional or psychological trauma you may have experienced in the past will help us develop a care plan that works for your specific needs as our patient and as a person.

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