“Providers and staff need to understand that even when providing excellent care, a patient may react to an element in the environment—a particular scent, physical touch, or even the sound of someone's voice—that sparks a trauma reaction," Herteen added.
An example, she said, might be a sexual abuse survivor who views something as simple as a physician examining her heart with a stethoscope to be invasive and triggering, and who may in turn act out aggressively.
“Human beings are complex," Fischer said. “When you learn more about trauma-informed care it becomes something that you can address and talk to the patient about. You can make sure you're delivering care in a way that makes sense to the patient and doesn't trigger these traumatizing symptoms."
Steps for health system leaders and providers
Here are four actionable steps that health system leaders and providers can take to incorporate trauma-informed care into their work.
Bring trauma-informed principles into training. “A healthcare organization needs to educate providers and staff at all levels and in all roles as to what is meant by trauma-informed care," Herteen said. Cover not just the method itself, but ways that it can be incorporated into daily work.