In the days and weeks following an injury or illness diagnosis, it’s not uncommon for a child and his/her family to experience symptoms of traumatic stress. In fact, up to 80% of children and families will exhibit traumatic stress reactions. While these reactions are to be expected to a certain degree, it’s critical for doctors and nurses to determine their duration and severity.
In the trauma informed care model of medical care, screening patients for traumatic stress reactions allows doctors and nurses to gauge psychosocial risks and provide, or refer to, the necessary mental health support.
It’s always a challenge to fit yet another assessment into the 15 minute window allotted for patient visits. To help address this, researchers at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Kentucky Children’s Hospital recently validated a short form of the Acute Stress Checklist for Children (ASC-Kids) in English and the Spanish-language version, the Cuestionario de Estrés Agudo-Ninos (CEA-N). These screeners assess posttraumatic stress symptoms shortly after an injury in children. According to the researchers, the scope of these shorter assessments could beyond acute posttraumatic stress symptoms:
With a tool like this in hand, the school nurse, court social worker, or primary care/ED doctor can feasibly screen children and then take the appropriate action: either arranging for ongoing monitoring or referring for additional assessment by a trained mental health professional.
And the need for brief screens for acute PTS symptoms is not limited to service settings. We believe that the availability of these very brief screens will allow more researchers to examine the impact of acute PTS even when traumatic stress is not the primary focus of a study. Including even a brief screen for PTS in a broader range of child health research studies promises to advance our understanding of the interplay between PTS and child health outcomes.
Learn about screening, assessment, and interventions for traumatic stress in ill and injured children and families in the Tool and Resources section, and then make sure to join us on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest to continue the conversation!