In the aftermath of a critical illness, patients and their families may experience traumatic stress symptoms or even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). New research found that parents of children who suffered a stroke experience traumatic stress and/or PTSD symptoms. In a study conducted at Boston Children's Hospital, 55% of parents experienced at least one of the four clinical PTSD symptom criteria and 24% met all the criteria for PTSD. And even though the children in this study did not seem to experience PTSD symptoms, 22% experienced high levels of anxiety in the aftermath of their stroke.
As a pediatric healthcare provider, how much attention should you pay to the psychosocial health of your patients and their families? This study, as well as others, suggests the emotional recovery of patients and their families influences their physical recovery. The study authors note, "our concern is that PTSD in parents of a child with stroke or pediatric stroke patients experiencing anxiety may have a harder time complying with therapy, which could affect health outcomes of the child". They continue, "When something happens to a child, it happens to the whole family. The psychosocial part of recovery after stroke is just as important as the physical recovery".
So what can doctors and nurses do to attend to the psychosocial health of their patients and families?
Opportunities to help patients by using trauma-informed care arise at each phase of medical treatment – from new diagnosis or emergent treatment through ongoing treatment of chronic illness or sequelae of injury. Research shows that the majority of ill or injured child are families are distressed but resilient. Many simply need information, comfort, and support in mobilizing their own resources. The D-E-F Protocol is an excellent way to provide universal screening and guide children and families help themselves after medical trauma.
Many other quick trauma informed assessments are available to screen pediatric patients and their families for traumatic stress and PTSD symptoms. Doctors and nurses looking to learn more about implementing trauma informed care into daily practice can take advantage of several free online trauma education courses.These courses provide an overview of pediatric medical traumatic stress and trauma informed care as well as an in-depth, step-by-step, how-to-guide to using the D-E-F Protocol in clinical settings.