In the last years, it’s becoming clearer worldwide that trauma-informed care for nurses is of vital importance when being trained and also when dealing with patients, as stated by Katie Owen, Senior Lecturer in the Bachelor of Nursing Programme at Whitireia, New Zeland:
“But what has been new over the last five years or so,” she says, “is the research linking health outcomes with trauma. This has led to a much more explicit acknowledgment of the importance of nurses being trauma-informed in their training and eventually in their practice.”
Similarly, the Coordinator of the Post-Graduate Certificate in Nursing (Mental Health) Catherine Fuller says: “there’s now a professional obligation for nurses to demonstrate trauma-informed care because it is part of reducing harm and is more likely to promote recovery, health, and well-being.”
And trauma-informed care is not just about understanding how past trauma could be affecting a person’s mental and physical health in adulthood. “What’s better understood now is that services themselves can be traumatizing,” Catherine says.
“The obvious issues here are seclusion and restraint, but there’s also being aware of the power relationships nurses have with people and trying to minimize the impacts of power in how you speak to people. It’s about self-determination and allowing people to determine their own health outcomes.”
“The other thing is that we’re not just talking about the relationship between trauma and mental health, but about all health outcomes. Whether you’re going to be a mental health nurse or work in primary care, ED or as a surgical nurse, all these areas need to be trauma-informed.
Catherine says it’s also important that nurses are aware of their own trauma.
“People who have experienced trauma are sharing their stories with you as a nurse, so you need to be able to keep yourself safe and not become burnt out. That’s why reflective practice is so important, and when that’s occurring properly you’re likely to be more trauma-informed.”
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