Maybe you've completed a course in empathy. Or follow your hospital's family centered care guidelines exactly, every time, with every patient encounter. So of course, without a doubt, you're practicing trauma informed care…right? Yes and no.


Implementing family centered care practices and being empathetic both share commonalities with trauma informed care, but do not make up it's entirety. Empathy, by definition, allows one person to understand another's feelings. Clinical empathy can be defined as "communication competency between clinician and patient, in which the practitioner uses various perceptive roues leading to expressions of concern and compassion".


Family centered care focuses the dignity and respect for the patient and family, incorporating the patient and family in shared decision making with the healthcare team, encouragement of family presence and participation in the care of the patient, among many other principles.


Family Centered Care vs Trauma Informed Care


Trauma informed care includes most of the same principles as family centered care, and communication between provider and patient/family delivered in an empathetic manner, but it also includes understanding of traumatic nature of injury, illness, and medical care.  Care is provided in a way that minimizing these traumatic aspects of medical care, assesses traumatic stress reactions of patients and family members, and provides support for coping with the emotional aspects of injury and illness.  


How do you know what to do or which to follow? The beauty of clinical empathy, family centered care and trauma informed care is you can practice all of them all at the same time, with every patient. Sound overwhelming and impractical? At first it certainly can feel impossible. By using a trauma informed framework, like the DEF Protocol, you can learn how to identify what you can do to address and prevent traumatic stress responses, while providing empathetic family centered care. 


To learn more about how to incorporate trauma informed care into your practice, register for four online continuing education courses, all available at no cost. Or join the conversation on our Facebook page and share your experiences in providing family centered, empathetic, and/or trauma informed care.