Thursday, November 2, 2017

#MeToo reminds health-care providers: trauma survivors carry experiences with them and need 'trauma informed care'

As millions of men and women joined the #MeToo social medial campaign to tell their stories of sexual abuse, harassment or domestic violence, Elizabeth Starr, a licensed clinical social worker, reminded caregivers that people who have had these experiences carry them with them into their health care settings.

In an opinion piece for the Louisville Courier Journal, Starr, who is also WellCare of Kentucky's manager of advocacy and community based programs, wrote: "Most of us know that if someone is in a bad accident, they may be scared to drive. And soldiers who experienced battleground trauma may be anxious during fireworks celebrations. But have you thought about the anxiety a rape victim may feel even years later, sitting alone, in a paper gown, in an exam room – or during the exam itself."

Star noted that health-care providers and others who attended a recent WellCare-sponsored conference learned how to create an environment where everyone is as comfortable as they can be when seeking care.

She used the term "trauma informed care," a phrase she said is used by those who work in mental health care to talk about ways doctors' offices, health clinics and hospitals can learn to recognize the signs of past trauma, understand that those traumas affect current mental and physical health, and to find ways to create a safe environment for everyone who seeks care .

For example, she notes the importance of making sure trauma survivors are comfortable enough to get the routine care everyone needs, like mammograms, pap smears and blood pressure checks: "We must eliminate all the barriers that keep people from these types of screenings - including the discomfort and fear that trauma survivors may feel."

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