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Trauma is more pervasive than many realize—more than half of the population has had some experience of trauma. It can come in many forms: physical violence, domestic abuse, street violence and even the witnessing of such violence. Some people try to mitigate the effects and others struggle to do so.

Caregivers and providers must be sensitive to the experiences patients carry with them. They may be wounded, but the wounds are sometimes invisible to the naked eye.

With this in mind, employees from across the Partners system came together this fall to increase awareness of trauma and trauma-informed care to better meet survivors’ needs.

Approaching all patients with trauma-informed awareness encourages caregivers and providers to be sensitive and empathetic to a survivor and his or her needs, whether it’s during a clinical interaction or in the reception area. Being sensitive to a patient’s needs can help the provider better understand the patient and offer the best support and guidance for recovery.

Carole Warshaw, MD and Director of the National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma and Mental Health in Chicago, is a leading expert on trauma-informed care and shared her wealth of knowledge with us during our second annual Trauma-Informed Care Conference. “All efforts towards providing care to a survivor of trauma are efforts to rehumanize the survivor,” said Dr. Warshaw. “The trauma-informed care approach is essential because it allows a survivor to reestablish trust and reconnect.”

Representatives from a number of Partners hospitals convened at the Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital to address how to incorporate the trauma-informed care approach into everyday practice across our institutions. Here are key points to apply to our daily work:

  • A care-team can play a pivotal role in restoring the trust and dignity of a survivor.
  • It’s also important to provide support for employees who are survivors of trauma.
  • Efforts to minimize retraumatization must be made both in the hospital and the workplace.

The trauma-informed care approach affirms our commitment to providing patient-centered care that treats the whole person.

Read lessons from our first Trauma-Informed Care Conference in 2013.