When practicing pediatric medicine, the patient and family form one cohesive unit, influencing each other as treatment and recovery progress. For this reason, doctors and nurses providing care through a trauma informed lens must involve, assess, and care for their patient's parents/ caregivers and other family members.
In the aftermath of a serious illness or injury, understanding the family's experience and beliefs help doctors and nurses promote healthy coping behaviors and manage potential traumatic stress responses. While traumatic stress responses and trauma-triggered beliefs are not problematic in and of themselves, they might lead to feelings, behaviors, and ways of relating which could become problematic for the patient, their family, or for doctors and nurses caring for them.
What does this look like in daily routine care?
The DEF Protocol for trauma informed care provides guidance to doctors and nurses:
What level of distress are the family members' experiencing?
- Ask parents, siblings, other family members how they're doing.
- Are any family members having an especially difficult time?
What are the family's stressors and available resources?
- Help family identify strengths and coping resources.
- Encourage parents to use their support systems.
What are the family's needs, beyond medical needs?
- Ask about other current stressors that hamper family's ability to cope with child's illness / injury / hospital stay.
- Connect family with appropriate support services.
Asking questions about a patient's family situation outside the hospital walls may feel overwhelming, it's important for doctors and nurses to remember most of their patients will not need much additional support. However, asking these potentially uncomfortable questions could alert doctors and nurses to families who otherwise would have fallen through the cracks. Join us on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest to continue the conversation and share how you care for your patient's family members!