Trauma-informed care is no longer a buzzword in nursing circles. As the number of Americans living with trauma increases, trauma-informed care is becoming the primary approach for mental health nurses in helping individuals cope with stress.
Recent data shows that roughly 3.6% of Americans live with post-traumatic stress disorder. By taking advantage of the trauma-informed care approach, mental health nurses can support patient needs by enhancing treatment compliance, outcomes and patient engagement.
Here is a comprehensive overview of trauma-informed care for mental health nurses.
What is trauma-informed care?
Trauma-informed care is a patient-centered healthcare strategy that encourages medical personnel and nurses to treat patients to prevent re-traumatization. Based on an awareness of the impact of trauma, this approach ensures that the settings and treatment process are safe and accepted by patients.
Mental health nurses who communicate clearly, openly empower patients, and try to establish emotional safety for others exhibit trauma-informed care in interpersonal relationships. A trauma-informed approach aims to prevent a situation that can accidentally re-traumatize a patient and cause them to disengage.
Traumatic experiences can trigger negative emotions in patients, and establishing some level of trust is proving to be a challenge for healthcare professionals. Several cross-sectional studies reveal that individuals who have experienced trauma tend to self-report lower confidence in others.
Lower levels of patient trust can make it difficult for nurses to conduct an examination, introduce necessary behavioral changes, and ensure treatment adherence. With a trauma-informed approach, nurses can establish trust and ensure that all patients receive the high-quality care they need, particularly those under stress or with a history of traumatic events such as child molestation, sexual assault or trauma.
A healthcare system’s rules, practices and mindset must be trauma-informed for this approach to be fully adopted and implemented. This task can take considerable time and effort and calls for multi-level involvement. Therefore, individually comprehending trauma-informed care principles and learning to use them at all levels of nursing practice is a must. In doing so, nurses experience more satisfaction and less stress while enhancing patient care.
What is the mental health nurse’s role in trauma-informed care?
Nurses are the initial point of contact when connecting with patients and providing treatment. They work closely with doctors to carry out treatment plans. According to the American Journal of Medicine, nurses spend roughly 33% of their time in patients’ rooms.
When creating a treatment regimen for a patient’s recovery, nurses must be aware of the patient’s current situation and past health history. Finding out if a patient has had adverse childhood experiences is the first stage in comprehending their current stressful circumstances.
Nurses can determine if a patient displays trauma indications by checking for adverse childhood experiences. This diagnostic test aims to help nurses take all required precautions to avoid re-traumatization before administering care.
Six core principles of trauma-informed care
Here are the core principles of trauma-informed care, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration.
Patients must feel secure while receiving care from nurses. By listening to patients’ worries, nurses can contribute to developing a safe environment for them. They can also allow patients to get care while their relatives stay with them. Nurses can further foster a sense of security as a bridge between doctors and patients.
2.Trustworthiness and transparency
Nurses must be open and honest to establish a trusting relationship, particularly with patients who are experiencing family abuse, rape or other types of violence. They must also know the rules and regulations that could affect how they treat them.
To deliver trauma-informed care, nurses must understand the many traumatic circumstances and their impact on patient care. Each patient goes through a traumatic occurrence that makes it difficult for them to be honest about their medical issues, and medical personnel need to be aware of this.
Nurses can ascertain patients’ requirements by listening to them rather than attempting to “correct” or “cure” a disease. Mental health nurses experienced in dealing with a particular type of trauma are best suited to care for patients who have had a similar trauma. Nursing staff can talk to patients like they are peers because of their shared traumatic events.
Nurses and other medical professionals should consider patients’ partners in creating medical regimens. In doing so, patients can have a sense of control over decisions related to their health.
For example, a diabetic patient can work with nurses to develop a treatment plan accommodating their daily needs. This partnership may give patients a feeling of safety and well-being. Patients can be more accountable for meeting their healthcare needs thanks to the mutual support of trauma-informed treatment.
Nurses strive to provide traumatized patients the tools they need to regain health control. Nurses should make patients feel comfortable sharing their stories to accomplish this. They must provide the opportunity for patients to make decisions regarding their care and communicate successfully with patients about alternative treatments.
Trauma-informed care practice is a system that aids in developing and healing patients and societies. Nurses must be aware of their power disparity with their patients when interacting with them. Patients’ opinions should be considered when making healthcare decisions to avoid re-traumatization.
Nurses must identify and eliminate any possible cultural, ethnic, sexual or other prejudices to build successful trauma-informed treatment. Healthcare institutions should develop procedures and standards to meet ethnic patients’ requirements.
When creating a strategy to implement trauma-informed treatment, a primary concern is the risk of re-traumatization caused by a lack of awareness of national, ethnic, sexual or other prejudices. Therefore, considering a person’s autonomy is a must.
It is, however, worth noting that implementing a trauma-informed care approach is not done using a single specific strategy or checklist. It calls for ongoing focus, compassion, understanding and perhaps a shift in workplace culture.
The integration of this strategy, which can be strengthened through organizational development and practice improvement, will depend on continuous existing management review and quality enhancement, along with interaction with key stakeholders.
How can mental health nurses initiate trauma-informed care?
Before initiating trauma-informed care, one must obtain specific qualifications by earning a PMC-Psych Mental Health NP degree at a prestigious university like Spring Arbor University to build on the knowledge of psychopathology and neurobiology. Once you’ve obtained the proper credentials, here are some steps to get started.
- Introduce yourself in every patient interaction
Introductions are still necessary, even if you think the patient already knows you and your role. Throughout their care, patients frequently engage with a large number of medical professionals.
Although the patients might identify you, they may not recall your function, which could lead to confusion and miscommunication. When patients know who you are and what you do for them, they can become more secure and motivated to participate more fully in their treatment.
- Use open and non-threatening body language
Survivors of trauma may feel helpless and trapped. This can bring back memories of times when they couldn’t get away or didn’t have control. Employing non-threatening body positioning helps patients stay in power by preventing the brain’s threat-sensing areas from taking over.
- Ask before touching
Unwanted or uncomfortable touch is a component of a traumatic experience for many trauma survivors. Even when touching someone to provide care is necessary and proper, this can quickly set off the fight, flight or freeze response. Nurses may need to touch patients, sometimes in private or delicate regions.
This could involve assisting patients with sitting in bed, putting on their hospital identification band, listening to their lungs, or looking at a wound. Every touch can be perceived as dangerous or undesired. Patients are given a choice and control over their bodies and physical space when you ask for their consent before touching them.
- Offer anticipatory language
Inform the patient in writing what to expect from a visit or operation and what the documentation will cover. Having a clear expectation lowers the probability of shocks and activation. Moreover, it gives patients a greater sense of agency while working with their care team to plan their treatment.
- Take advantage of plain language and teach back
When imparting knowledge, data or directions, break the content into manageable chunks and ask patients if they understand. Patients are given expertise and comprehension about their care through straightforward language and teaching back. For example, after showing a patient with a recent diagnosis of diabetes how to test their blood glucose at home, you can ask them to do it themselves in front of you and explain to you how and when they will do it.
- Provide concise and straightforward messaging about roles and services
Consistent messaging and openness are imperative for developing reasonable expectations. Because trauma is frequently unforeseen, dependability, reliability and consistency are essential when caring for trauma survivors.
If mental health nurses communicate expectations and hospital rules consistently, patients can feel safer, ensure goals are met and avoid triggering arousal behavior. Honesty regarding the role’s limitations or what can be accomplished during a visit also reduces misunderstanding, arousal or instability.
- Successfully initiating a trauma-informed care approach
Applying a trauma-informed care approach is essential in providing patients with holistic care. Without this approach to mental health nursing, healthcare providers may struggle to connect with patients experiencing trauma. It is vital for these methods to be in place for mental health nurses to truly provide the best care.