Practicing trauma informed care requires doctors and nurses to not only remain aware of the traumatic nature of medical care, but also recognize the trauma children and families bring with them to hospital or doctor’s visits. Prior trauma can put children at higher risk for distress during medical care and even post-traumatic stress reactions related to their care. This is especially true for children involved in the child welfare system.
Children in the child welfare system have more medical and mental health problems than other children. According to the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being, 28% of children in foster care have a chronic health condition, and 12% have two or more. About 35% of children in child welfare had either a health condition or special need. They often change doctors repeatedly due to placement changes or may receive care in Emergency Departments where frightening sights and sounds may scare them. In most cases, children in foster care also lack consistent, nurturing caregivers who will comfort them during medical visits. As if these things weren’t enough, their prior experiences of abuse or neglect make it harder for them to cope with the stress of medical care. For example, children who have been sexually abused may avoid physical exams or experience extreme discomfort, and children who have been abused or neglected may not initially trust adults to keep them safe---even health care providers.
How can you help children in foster care cope with medical care? Having a working knowledge of the child welfare system and how children in the system may respond to medical experiences and trauma will help you treat your patients in foster care more effectively. A new online course, Pediatric Medical Traumatic Stress (PMTS) and Working with the Child Welfare System, from the Center for Pediatric Traumatic Stress in partnership with Northeast Treatment Centers addresses these crucial issues.
Not only will you learn about pediatric medical traumatic stress symptoms and risk factors, but you will also gain skills for assessing symptoms and risk factors, and learn how best to deliver pediatric care for children involved in the child welfare system. This free online course provides 1.0 Continuing Education Credit for nurses. Make sure to register today!