Becoming a Trauma-Informed Organization

Becoming a Trauma-Informed Organization

Today is National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day with this year’s theme being, “Partnering for Health and Hope Following Trauma.” In honor of this important health awareness day, we’d like to share what Lurie Children’s Hospital is doing in partnership with the Chicago Department of Public Health, and Healthy Chicago 2.0 to become a trauma-informed organization in an effort to better serve our patients, families, and staff.

So what does it mean to be “trauma-informed?” To be trauma-Informed is grounded in service delivery, and directed by a thorough understanding of the neurological, biological, psychological and social effects of trauma and violence on humans and groups. Functioning as a Trauma-Informed hospital requires significant changes in attitude, knowledge and practice, with all our departments and staff becoming trained on the impact that trauma has on our patients and families. A Trauma-Informed system therefore uses this knowledge to develop policies and system improvements that ensure effective responses to recovery from trauma and to prevent individuals from being re- traumatized.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA), a trauma-informed approach reflects adherence to six key principles rather than a prescribed set of practices or procedures. These principles may be generalizable across multiple types of settings, although terminology and application may be setting- or sector-specific:

  • Building Safety
  • Building Trustworthiness and Transparency
  • Peer support and mutual self-help
  • Collaboration and mutuality
  • Empowerment, voice and choice
  • Cultural, Historical, and Gender Issues

From SAMHSA’s perspective, it is critical to promote the linkage to recovery and resilience for those individuals and families impacted by trauma. Consistent with SAMHSA’s definition of recovery, services and supports that are trauma-informed build on the best evidence available and consumer and family engagement, empowerment, and collaboration.

Are you still with us? This sounds like a tall order, and we get that! This is a process that takes time and careful thought to shift practices and be more intentional with our service delivery, but we’ve started laying the foundation as we move toward this goal. For example, 2018 is considered a “needs assessment” year. What that means in plain English is that that we’re looking to better understand the current knowledge within the hospital. What are we already doing that’s considered trauma-informed? How much does our staff know about trauma-informed care?  What have other institutions done that have been successful?  In addition, we meet monthly with other city-wide organizations to discuss best practices, how to get buy-in from all members of an organization, what training materials need to be developed, and to simply share and exchange ideas.

Traumatic experiences, including experiences of abuse, neglect, family dysfunction, violence, natural disasters, loss, discrimination, racism, oppression and poverty, can cause significant emotional pain and distress. Trauma is a common experience that affects all aspects of life, putting children who experience it at the risk of both physical and behavioral health problems. By ensuring our staff is trained to understand and respond to these symptoms, we have the potential to improve the health outcomes of patients throughout our hospital.

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