A common question among doctors and nurses looking to implement trauma informed care is “What does it mean to be trauma informed in my department/unit/practice?”
The DEF Protocol provides a guiding framework for implementing trauma informed care by emphasizing the assessment of a patient and their family’s distress, emotional needs, and family support. However, conceptualizing trauma informed care at the patient’s bedside or in the operating room can present a challenge.
Even though formal assessments and screeners provide vital information on a patient’s emotional state, trauma informed care encompasses more than assessments. Trauma informed care calls on physicians and nurses to not only understand patient’s bring with them trauma from their lives, but also that medical care in and of itself can be traumatizing. So when physician practices through a trauma informed point of view, what does that look like at the bedside? Natasha Abadilla, a Stanford medical student, shares her experience in the operating room:
When the care team and I went to meet one of the patients and his family before his operation, we found a little boy clutching a worn-out teddy bear. The bear was wearing the boy’s medical ID bracelet as a collar. The surgical resident asked about his bear, and after realizing the bear’s collar bore the wrong name on it, he found a pen, scratched out the boy’s name, and wrote “Fuzzy” on the collar.
“We can’t have Fuzzy being called the wrong name, right?” he asked the boy with a wink. This simple fix made the frightened boy visibly relax and give us the slightest smile.
After the boy’s surgery, one of the scrub nurses made the team wait an extra minute before bringing the boy into the post-operation recovery room so that she could find an extra Band-Aid. I thought she intended it to be an extra one to give it to the boy’s parents, but instead, I watched her carefully put it on Fuzzy. I could only imagine how big the boy’s smile would be when he woke up and realized his bear had a band aid in the exact same spot that he did.
Correcting the teddy bear’s name on the medical ID bracelet and placing a Band-Aid on the bear are example of trauma informed care that any physician, nurse, resident, or student could implement on nearly any hospital floor. It’s simple, requires no assessments, and hardly takes any additional time. But the impact on for the patient is huge.