Four Ways to Trauma-Informed Care
By Zoe Waters
Any type of medical care can be invasive, from getting shots at a regular exam, to getting a check-up when you’re sick, or receiving a pelvic exam. If you’re someone who has experienced physical, verbal, or emotional trauma before, these “regular” things can come with a handful of side effects. Triggers, flashbacks, crying, and tensing up are all totally normal responses when the body feels threatened.
Trauma-informed care is a way for medical professionals to help reduce some of these reactions to create a better healthcare system. Here are a few examples of what medical professionals should do to make each patient’s lives a little easier:
Ask the for the patient’s information from the patient.
Ask for pronouns, preferred name, and actually use these things. A person can look femme-presenting with a femme name but request different pronouns that what their biological sex says.
Educate yourself on the effects of trauma.
Some short term effects can include emotional numbness, dysregulation of emotion, physical pain, acute stress disorder, fear, cognitive errors, and more. Long term effects can include shame, guilt, depression, anxiety, PTSD, self harm, dissociation, triggers, or flashbacks. It is important to note that trauma looks different on everyone and no two cases will look the same.
Ask if the patient has experienced anything that would make a physical examination or visiting a practitioner difficult.
This is not a time to pry for details of past abuse, but rather a way to open up conversation about possible ways to either overcome or meet a patient’s needs and requests to assure their comfort.
Follow through with requests made by the patient.
This can include things like knocking a certain way before entering the room, keeping certain clothing on at all times, or being able to face opposite while having vitals checked, such as weight. Explain what you are doing and why you are doing it, at all times.
People who have experienced trauma might not act like how a medical professional would like them to, and that is okay. Working with the patient to create a safe, equal, and non-threatening environment will help bridge the gap between plain, old healthcare and great, trauma-informed healthcare.