Trauma Informed Care: Addressing EMOTIONAL SUPPORT

Addressing Emotional Support includes assessing the child’s need for emotional support during this episode of care, and then helping both the health care team and the child’s family provide that support in an effective way. While referral to social work or child life services may be a part of the picture, there is much that frontline health care professionals are uniquely positioned to do.



How do I do this?

  • Help children apply their existing coping strategies in this new situation.
  • Encourage parent presence, and learn from parents as the experts on helping their child.
  • Give parents specific pointers to help their child in this new situation.
  • When a child must tolerate an uncomfortable or potentially distressing procedure - engage the child in ACTIVE distraction before the procedure begins and throughout the entire procedure.
  • Help children who must remain in the hospital for a while maintain their connection to family and friends.
  • Identify any barriers to mobilizing the child’s existing emotional support. For example, parents may feel unsure how to calm and soothe their child in this new situation.


Case Example: Meet Melanie

Melanie, an 11 year old, is sick for 24 hours with fever, nausea, and vomiting. She complains of belly pain, and stays home from school, under her grandmother’s care. Throughout the day, Melanie continues to vomit and becomes more lethargic. Her grandmother takes Melanie to the hospital when her belly pain seems to become much more severe. In the Emergency Department, Melanie has an IV placed and labs are drawn. She is diagnosed with appendicitis and admitted for surgery.

You meet Melanie and her grandmother, Mrs. Davis, when she is admitted to your unit. When you enter Melanie’s room, it is very busy. Several staff are talking with Mrs. Davis and Melanie, asking about her medical history and getting consent for surgery. Melanie and her grandmother both appear anxious and you see that Melanie is tearful. You need to get Melanie ready to go to the OR.


What would you do next?

To promote effective Emotional support, you might:

  • Tell Melanie that lots of kids feel a little nervous before an operation, and ask if she has any questions about what’s going to happen next.
  • Answer Melanie’s questions, and briefly describe what she can expect: who will take her to the OR, where she will be when she wakes up, and when she will see her grandmother again.
  • Suggest that her grandmother help keep Melanie focused on other things - like playing a game on grandmother’s phone - while they wait to go to the OR.

Want to learn more about addressing emotional support with your patients? Take an interactive online course “E is for Emotional Support” - with free CE credits for nurses.