With kids across the country returning to school this week, if you're a primary care pediatrician or nurse, you probably breathing a sigh of relief that the rush of back to school immunizations and sports physicals are coming to end. Most likely, you heard countless stories of summer camp (mis)adventures, vacations, or simply good times spent with good friends. At some point during the exam, you asked your patient and their caregiver several questions regarding their physical health, any concerns or changes.
Did you ask also about other concerns, outside of physical health? How are the stress levels in the family? Any behavioral changes in the child(ren)? These questions are just as important to ask your patients and families as they can negatively affect current and future health. Known as adverse childhood events (ACEs) (abuse, domestic violence, parental divorce, or parental incarceration), these life events can lead to a host of different health problems, ranging from risky behaviors, to depression, to heart disease.
The primary care setting affords healthcare providers a unique opportunity to get to know your patients on a more personal level. When you screen for ACEs and other mental health concerns, you're able to refer them to appropriate resources and help them receive the support they need to continue to grow and develop into both mentally and physically healthy adults. The DEF Protocol can provide a framework to incorporate screening for ACEs and providing trauma informed care.