What is trauma-informed care?
Most people will undoubtedly go through at least one traumatic event in their life.
These experiences are not isolated events. People store them in their nervous systems and in memories – whether they are aware of them or not. Understanding this process is the basis for trauma-informed care.
Providers with a trauma-informed nursing perspective consider how their clients’ trauma can affect the way they are cared for. These providers aim to promote health and healing rather than accidentally re-traumatizing their clients.
Why is trauma-informed care important?
Trauma can take many forms. From sexual trauma, emotional abuse, domestic abuse and violence to natural disasters to systemic racism, homophobia, transphobia, poverty and much more.
Often times, when people enter a care facility, their providers inadvertently do or say things that re-traumatize or re-trigger and hinder their care.
While this goes beyond women’s health, Intimina would like to acknowledge the impact of this conversation on those receiving reproductive health care.
Providers in these areas need to be extra careful because of the delicate nature of the work. For someone who has experienced sexual trauma, a routine gynecology visit or Pap smear has the potential to retraumatize and it is the provider’s responsibility to help mitigate this risk.
The same applies to people who are pregnant or giving birth. Particularly in view of the inherent risk that birth and labor have for the development of new trauma, be it due to injury, unplanned processes or due to neglect by medical service providers.
Take a cervical check, for example, where a midwife or obstetrician manually inserts their fingers into the patient’s vagina to see how much the cervix has dilated during labor. Despite being a medical setting, you can see how incredibly triggering this can be, especially when a provider does it without a consent form.
Design trauma-informed care
The role of traumatized providers is not to specifically treat and address the relevant trauma, but to provide their services appropriately and to do their best not to retraumatize or trigger their patients or customers.
When a provider triggers a patient who has suffered trauma, they are often completely unaware of it. It is therefore important to know how this risk can be minimized in the first place.
This isn’t just a good bedside style, although that’s part of it.
A trauma-related perspective shifts providers from asking what’s wrong with this person. to “What happened to this person?”
Here are some other ways providers can use trauma-informed care:
- Consent form: Make sure a customer understands the procedure or action before performing it and that they are okay with it.
- Speak them through a procedure: In this way, customers understand why, when and how a provider does something to their body.
- Please leave feedback: Check in with the client to see how he is doing during and after the session or procedure.
- Provide emotional security: Vendors need to set the tone to create a space that feels both emotionally and physically safe.
- Listen: Really listen and see their customers and not just see them as a number or a diagnosis.
- Understand intersectionality: Take into account how the various aspects of one’s identity affect the way they are cared for.
Which industries can use trauma-informed care?
The first type of providers that might come to mind when it comes to trauma-informed care are psychiatrists. It goes without saying that a trauma-related perspective is absolutely necessary in this area – but what about others?
All patients would benefit from medical providers who not only have trauma-informed nursing training, but also actively integrate it into their practice.
It doesn’t stop with medical care, anyone involved in any human service area can best support their clients by being informed about trauma. Social workers, community outreach positions, youth workers, public order workers, probation officers, sociologists, and many more positions would benefit from a trauma-informed approach.
Educators, teachers, and professors, especially those who work with children and adolescents, should also have an understanding of possible trauma their students may face and how this can affect their learning experience.
This understanding can change how educators approach discipline and grace for students who do not meet academic standards. Take, for example, a student who is constantly being kicked out of class because of “disruptive behavior”. In reality, this behavior is the result of acute or chronic trauma to the student. In this interview, you will learn more about the role educators play in trauma-informed education, with an emphasis on intersectionality.
The bigger picture
The idea of being “traumatized” can spread from the medical industry and human services to the way we manage our daily lives. Interacting with people with the understanding that they may have their own trauma history enables us to be more conscientious, compassionate, understanding, and better people everywhere.
Trauma-informed care requires a more humane approach. One that takes into account all of the potential experiences that will help shape a person and how to enter these waters with grace and compassion.