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Trauma-Informed Care Treats Injuries That Can Be Seen, Those That Can’t

Posted: February 07, 2017

The pain and aftershocks of traumatic injuries — physical and psychological — can linger for a lifetime and feed chronic illnesses. Certain traumas — a broken arm or battered face — are fairly easy for healthcare providers to recognize. But sometimes no skin was broken, or the wounds have long healed, and patients still suffer for years from the physical and mental impacts of a traumatic event.

Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital is among the New Jersey healthcare organizations now seeking to improve care for patients struggling with the mental and physical fallout from all kinds of traumatic events, whether it’s the loss of a loved one, domestic abuse, chronic poverty, or the effects of flooding or other natural disasters. In addition to depression, panic, or other emotional issues, experts have found trauma can feed chronic physical ailments like diabetes and heart disease.

To reach these goals, RWJUH and others are using “trauma-informed care,” an approach that seeks to address the immediate physical injuries associated with a traumatic event, as well as the long-term behavioral and physical problems that may result. In January, the New Brunswick-based hospital led a conference that outlined the concept and kicked off a year-long effort to help hospital staff and healthcare providers elsewhere learn to better diagnose and treat patients dealing with often-hidden trauma.

Trauma-informed care involves training staff to recognize the sometimes-subtle signs of trauma, develop trust with the patient, and carefully elicit relevant details, without causing further harm. Patients are then linked with appropriate physical and behavioral health treatments, and sometimes law enforcement.


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