When you hear the word “trauma” in reference to a hospital patient, you think of physical trauma- such as a broken bone, a deep wound or other serious injury. In reality, both physical AND emotional trauma are pervasive not only among SCH patients but staff as well. Furthermore, exposure to both physical and/or emotional trauma can impact a person’s overall health for years to come.
Take for example, a bariatric patient with COPD who can trace her issues back to a lifetime of abuse; a nurse who was physically attacked by a patient, and 2 years later, still feels her heart race when she enters a room, or ED staff who care for victims of a horrific accident or crime. Unlike a physical trauma, the impact of such emotional trauma events are more nuanced and may be harder to detect, but have a significant and lasting impact on patient health and staff wellbeing.
According to Kate Lawler, Director of SCH’s Violence Prevention Program, there is a growing awareness in the medical field that emotional trauma impacts the brain and body in ways previously unrecognized; emotional trauma is often at the root of numerous physical problems. In an effort to understand and identify how distressing experiences change our bodies and impact our health, SCH recently joined 15 other hospitals in Chicago and the City’s Dept. of Health to create the Trauma-Informed Collaborative– an effort to identify and integrate the knowledge and impact of emotional trauma on health into the hospital’s policies, culture, and methods of care. By making our organization more sensitive to the impact that trauma has on the body and the brain, SCH believes that we can both improve patient health outcomes and better support our staff.
To this end, SCH is offering a series of educational training sessions for managers that focus on identifying and delivering trauma-informed care to patients and staff. As one of the first steps in the rollout of this initiative, these trainings are intended to increase staff awareness of these issues and identify next steps in becoming a truly trauma-informed hospital. With funding provided by the SCH Foundation, training will allow staff to understand and recognize symptoms of traumatic stress, identify ways to minimize staff burnout, and help identify resources for patients and staff that support both physical and emotional healing.
SCH is proud to be on the leading-edge of awareness and education in trauma-informed care. To learn more about the Violence Prevention Program at Swedish Covenant Hospital, at https://www.swedishcovenant.org/community/violence-prevention-program, or contact the Foundation at (773) 293-5121.