Amy Stewart

Our facility seems to struggle with trauma-informed care. Can you provide tips to help us educate staff?

No one is immune from trauma. It could be a result of surviving natural or human-caused disasters, witnessing horrific events, surviving a crime or war, or experiencing a sudden loss. 

A common misconception regarding trauma is that it is something that only veterans experience. That is not true, and staff need to understand trauma’s potential reach and impact. 

Trauma-informed care is an approach to delivering care that seeks to avoid retraumatization. To do so, there must be a system to identify resident-specific traumatic events and understand how the experience affected the resident. Typically, this is accomplished through an assessment upon admission. Residents identified as at risk for retraumatization need to have a care plan that includes interventions aimed at preventing this. 

It is important for all staff to understand what they can do to help avoid triggers that may cause a resident to be re-traumatized. For example, if a resident survived an apartment fire, the testing of a fire alarm may unexpectedly cause them to re-experience the traumatic event. Using trauma sensitivity, a facility might forewarn the resident, ask the resident’s permission or schedule alarm testing for when the resident is elsewhere.

Educate staff on trauma using the three E’s: event, experience and effects. The event can be a single occurrence or a series of events that caused actual harm or the threat of harm. Experience refers to how the individual perceives the event. Effect is how the event adversely impacts the resident. With sensitivity to trauma’s prevalence and impact, providers can adjust so that their care helps, rather than harms, residents.