In general, trauma means an emotional, psychological response to physical injury or deeply disturbing or distressing experience. Each processes trauma differently.

Trauma – Sobering Statistics

CDC Statistics on violence and abuse are very sobering.

According to the CDC, one in every four children has experienced some trauma (sexual, physical, or emotional abuse). One in every four women has faced domestic violence.

Additionally, one in every 71 men and one in every five women have been raped at some point in their life and some even before they turned 10.

This shows that a considerable part of the US populace has experienced some form of severe trauma in their lives.

Medical exams, in such cases, feels invasive. Exams often involved examining the intimate parts, asking sensitive questions, and if required delivering uncomfortable or painful treatments.

This makes it necessary for the healthcare providers to know that many of their patients come to the hospital or clinical setting having a traumatic history

Trauma-Informed Approach

How does one approach such cases?

In a trauma-informed approach, an organization, system, or program which is trauma-informed:
  • Realizes the impact of trauma and recovery process
  • Recognizes signs and symptoms of trauma in clients, families, and others who are linked to the system
  • Responds by integrating the acquired knowledge into procedure, policies, and practices
  • Seeks to resist re-traumatization.
One need not have a clinical setting for implementing a trauma-informed care approach. It can be done in any setting and is very distinct from trauma-specific interventions designed for addressing the consequences and facilitate healing.

Fundamental Principles of a Trauma-Informed Approach

Unlike preset procedures and practices, a trauma-informed care approach adheres to certain fundamental principles.

These are generalized principles and is suitable across different settings, though the application and terminology might be sector or setting specific:
  • Safety
  • Peer Support
  • Trustworthiness and Transparency
  • Cultural, Historical, and Gender
  • Collaboration and mutuality
  • Empowerment, choice, and voice

Trauma Comes In Different Forms

A provider providing trauma-informed care has to keep in mind that trauma comes in many forms.

A child who has had a severe illness and subsequent hospitalization might not be ready to take shots, which he used to do before his hospitalization.

Similarly, a rape victim might be uncomfortable and have anxious moments while undergoing a routine gynecologic exam.

Trauma-informed care requires the provider to understand that all patients deserve compassion and open-mindedness because anyone could have a traumatic event in their life which might have a say in how they approach the medical system.

Providers need to understand and recognize that many patients whom they encounter daily are trauma patients, and they need to respond and treat them with necessary empathy and understanding.

Benefits of Trauma-informed Care Approach

There are many benefits of having a sensitive approach towards a trauma patient. It can improve the client and staff experience by:
  • Having a highly proactive approach when it comes to safety
  • creating a safe emotional and physical environment for patients, families, as well as the staff
  • creation of and sustaining the opportunities for power, choice, and control with the help of increased therapeutic interactions
  • reducing re-traumatization possibility
  • improving a social environment which can positively influence all relationships
  • creating environments that show the staff that they are cared for and have the support
  • increasing and improving quality of services, by cutting down on unnecessary interventions, and costs
  • decreasing the number of adverse events and encounters (e.g., restraint and seclusion)
  • creating an approach that is based on resiliency and strengths
  • increasing the satisfaction of both the client and family
  • increasing job satisfaction and success rate among staff
Furthermore, following a trauma-informed care approach has the following benefits, which have been documented in various literature. It is known to
  • Reduce trauma symptoms, mental health symptoms, drug use severity
  • Increase the effectiveness of services rendered –engagement, retention, and outcome
  • Cost-effective treatment
  • Decreased use of crisis services and acute care by the patient
  • Increase organizational results like enhanced staff morale and skills; better collaboration both within and outside agencies; fewer negative episodes, and reduced vicarious trauma

Bottom Line

A sensitive and empathy filled approach is required in handling cases with a traumatic past, and having trauma-informed care goes a long way in addressing this and provide that healing touch.