Compassionate Care Through Trauma Informed Clinics
When you think about the most compassionate care you have ever received at a doctor’s office, what comes to mind? Now, imagine yourself as a new patient walking into a health clinic. Imagine you have a history of trauma such as childhood violence, neglect, not having enough to eat, loss of a parent, or growing up in a family where there was mental illness or substance abuse. Then, add the reality of living in a community where your family and friends are being deported, and you feel unsafe to step out in your own neighborhood. Going to the doctor can be stressful for all of us, but for those living with toxic stress and overwhelming fear and anxiety linked to unsafe community environments, even the idea of entering a health clinic can trigger a trauma response—and that’s before even stepping in the door.
The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) study revealed that a large percentage of people have experienced childhood trauma. The ACEs study looked at 10 different childhood experiences and correlated data with adult chronic health issues. From the study, we learned the higher number of ACEs a person has experienced, the higher the likelihood they will develop chronic medical issues throughout their life. In recent years, the Pair of ACEs model has acknowledged not only the impact of individual trauma, but also the impact of community trauma including poverty, discrimination, and violence upon long-term health and well-being. The good news is, that by utilizing trauma-informed practices, we can create safe, compassionate spaces for our patients to heal while mitigating and protecting against the effects of toxic stress on patients, families, and those who care for them.
Caritas Clinics, Mercy & Truth Medical Missions, and Vibrant Health have each been on a journey to implement Trauma Informed Care. Among the clinics, successful changes include screening patients for trauma, training staff on the impact and neuroscience of trauma as well as principles of Trauma Informed Care, incorporating resilience tools and practices, and completing trauma-informed organizational assessments. Still, transforming culture to implement Trauma Informed Care is slow, hard work.
So, this year, the clinics have come together through an innovative grant provided by the Wyandotte Health Foundation to create a Trauma Informed Learning Collaborative. The goals are to share best practices with one another, support one another through the challenges of culture transformation, and sustain momentum in successfully implementing Trauma Informed Care. Areas of focus include creating trauma-informed physical spaces, helping patients and staff regain calm when triggered, addressing compassion fatigue and secondary trauma for staff, and moving from trauma awareness and sensitivity to being fully responsive and trauma informed in every aspect of clinic work. Quarterly meetings are facilitated by consultants from Truman Medical Centers Behavioral Health and Resilience Builders, LLC .
The TIC Learning Collaborative seeks enhanced care for all Wyandotte County residents. Ultimately, this collaboration will serve as a key anchor in building a more resilient and trauma-informed community in Wyandotte County and beyond!