Trauma-Informed Care and How to Help

A history of sexual trauma can greatly impact a cancer patient’s mental and physical health, so implementing trauma-informed care practices in oncology settings is essential. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, trauma-informed care involves policy and practice that fosters feelings of safety, trust, support, collaboration, and empowerment among patients.

Trauma-informed care involves recognizing signs of trauma from patients who are served, and staff understanding the impact that trauma has on patients. Patient behavior is viewed in a trauma-informed lens, and patients are given support around issues that arise. Policies and practices are put into place to avoid re-traumatizing patients.11

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Implementing trauma-informed care involves training staff on the impact of trauma and how to most effectively communicate and interact in a health care setting with patients who have a history of trauma. Sensitive screeners can be implemented to identify patients with a history of sexual trauma, as well as any triggers they may experience in a health care setting, so that staff can know how to avoid those triggers and best provide support.12

Health care providers and staff should also modify certain aspects of health care interactions. These could include offering choice and control to the patient whenever possible. For example, patients should be asked for consent before touching them. Procedures should be explained before they occur, so the patient understands what will happen during the interaction, what they can expect, and what tools may be involved. These types of practices help minimize feelings of vulnerability and help encourage the patient’s sense of partnership and power throughout the health care interaction.

Health care providers may need to take extra care to clearly communicate instructions and what to expect in between appointments, including side effects or common symptoms. Encouraging patients to bring someone who can take notes or record interactions with them to appointments may be useful.13 If the patient does not have someone in their life able to fill this role, advocate services offered through the health care setting can be a helpful support. Health care providers can also connect their patients to a variety of support services, which may include counseling or psychotherapy, psychopharmacology, support groups, peer support, and patient advocacy services.


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This article originally appeared on Oncology Nurse Advisor