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Patients’ and physicians’ opinions on trauma-informed care

Writers: Donna Dumitrescu and Maija Kiviharju

Editor: Holly Funk

Trauma-informed care (TIC) is a type of treatment that health care providers can give to people who have experienced trauma. The goal of TIC is to make sure patients feel safe, heard, and cared for when seeking health care.

There are 7 different elements that make up trauma informed care, which are understanding trauma, safety, trust, peer support, collaboration between patient and health care professional, empowering the patient, and cultural sensitivity

TIC is important because a large number of people have experienced trauma. Better support is needed to make sure people can fully access health care when they need to. When TIC is not used, people who have experienced trauma may not complete, continue, or even begin treatment. This can lead to even worse health (for more about this, check out this other summary from our lab).

To learn more, researchers at the SCHT Lab did a study where they asked patients and health care providers about two main questions: 

  1. What do patients and health care providers think about TIC? How do their ideas compare to each other?
  1. How do patients think health care could be more trauma-informed?

Answers to the first question are listed below in Table 1. 

Table 1

Views of patients and health care providers on TIC

TIC is important for good care.Providers said they provided TIC to patients more often than patients said they received it.
Professionals should be trained in TIC.Providers said patients often do not use the support they offer.
Both in-person and online support group styles of TIC were encouraged for help with general trauma issues.Patients said peer support groups are less helpful than support from health care providers, and less likely to be used.
Safety, Trust, and Collaboration aspects of TIC were rated higher than understanding trauma, Empowerment, Peer Support, and Cultural Sensitivity by both patients, and physicians.

To make care more trauma-informed (question 2), patients suggested:

  • longer appointments 
  • being able to bring up more than two health care problems per visit
  • making sure health care providers listen to their patients’ full concerns during appointments. 

These suggestions can be hard for providers to do.They have a limited amount of time with each patient and a limited number of staff to see patients. Some providers are able to give patients more time to talk about their concerns.

Overall, both patients and health care providers said that TIC is important.

Original Article: Kokokyi, S., Klest, B., & Anstey, H. (2021). A patient-oriented research approach to assessing patients’ and primary care physicians’ opinions on trauma-informed care. PLoS ONE, 16(7), e0254266.

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