Does trauma informed care belong in the emergency department?  If so, what should it look like? How do you provide care that promotes emotional as well as physical recovery when you may have never seen this particular patient before, the department is filled with similar patients, and there's never more than a minute or two to spend with the patient?  

There's no question providing trauma informed care in the emergency department is challenging. So why even try to implement trauma informed care? It's no surprise, the sights and sounds of an emergency department can be frightening for children. It may cause them to over-estimate life threat and the seriousness of their condition. Coupled with being in pain and being separated from parents, treatment in an emergency room presents significant risk factors for persistent traumatic stress in children which may complicate a child's physical and emotional recovery.  In addition, providing trauma informed and patient centered care can increase physician job satisfaction, decrease burn out rates, and improve quality of care by enhancing the quality of medical history collected and decreasing medical error.  

Recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a report to guide physicians on how to implement trauma informed and patient centered care in the emergency department. The report outlines many opportunities to implement trauma informed care, such as during clinical operations and discharge, through policies and programs, and even within the physical environment of department. 

Listed below are a few, very simple ways you can implement today to start providing trauma informed care in the emergency room: 

  • Explain that feeling worried, mad, sad, or confused is common and expected.
  • Ask about fears and worries and provide simple explanations for medical procedures.
  • Talk with the child at his/her eye level.
  • Encourage parent presence and support parents in comforting their child.

What other ways do you provide trauma informed and patient centered care in your emergency department?