Traumatic stress signs and symptoms appear in various ways in different people. Some people may be more anxious, more jumpy, and sleep less. Others may complain of new aliments (stomachaches, headaches), may avoid discussing the traumatic event, and may experience changes in their appetite. As a nurse, you possess the unique opportunity to assess your patient's mental health after a traumatic event by asking a few simple questions.

The DEF protocol provides nurses a quick and easy framework to assess the traumatic stress reactions of their patients. The DEF protocol examines your patient's level of distress, availability and accessibility of emotional supports, as well as their family's level of distress and other needs.

Reduce Distress:

  • Assess and manage pain
  • Ask about fears and worries
  • Consider grief and loss

Promote Emotional Support:

  • Who and what does the patient need now
  • Are there barriers to mobilizing existing supports

Remember the Family:

  • Assess parent's or sibling's and other's distress
  • Gauge family stressors and resources
  • Address other needs (beyond medical)

What steps do you take to examine any potential traumatic stress reactions in your patients?