"It takes a village to raise a child". This common saying can easily be applied to injury and illness: It takes a village to heal a child. Children rarely enter the medical system as a singular person like adults. Children enter with parents/caregivers. Perhaps with siblings, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. Caring for a child during and after an injury or an illness means caring for the whole family.
As a doctor or nurse practicing trauma informed care, you're providing trauma informed care to the whole family. What does that look like in practice? It means assessing the distress of parents/family members, gauging family stressors and resources, and addressing other needs, beyond medical care. It also means reminding parents the best way to care for their ill/injured child is to practice basic self care, involving siblings and explaining treatments to them, and remembering that issues outside the hospital impact your patient, their family, and their recovery.
So what does that really look like in real life? From one nurse:
"I'm taking care of, say, Jane who has pediatric cancer. I can ask her mom, "Well, tell me about your other kids?" and "What's important to you in being this kid's mom?" I think just starting the conversation with parents to help them realize it's OK if they're struggling, if they feel like it's hard. We often pat parents on the back for incorporating more of the caregiving work into their care for the child, and we pat them on the back when they can do this extraordinary work to take care of the kids, whether it's changing central line dressings or maybe taking care of the child who is home on hospice with a ventilator. But nurses can also ask, "How can we maybe connect you to community resources to support you in parenting your other kids as well?" I think nurses can start that conversation because we're in it with families; we're in the trenches with them."
Attending to the needs of the family can seem like extra work when you already have so little time with each patient. But there are ways to incorporate family assessments seamlessly into practice. Join the conversation on our Facebook page to share how you assess family needs during your regular patient care.