Trauma-informed practice for health organisations - transcript

Nicole Sadler: So over the next few minutes I’m going to outline some key aspects of trauma-informed practice in health services and this is going to give us some context for the panel discussion that we’ll follow next slide please.

So firstly, what do we mean by trauma-informed care? We know that most Australians will experience at least one potentially traumatic event in their lifetime that’s at least 75% of Australians. While we also know that most people recover from these experiences the reality is that regardless of your role or organisation you work for, you’re very likely to interact with a trauma-impacted person whether or not they’re seeking trauma-specific support which is why it’s important for individual workers and organizations to be aware of and to build trauma-informed principles into your work practices and training

Trauma-informed care or TIC is an evidence-informed approach to working with individuals in communities that have experienced trauma in a way that helps particular relevance for health service organisations since services such as GP practices are often the first point of call for those who need help following traumatic experiences such as disasters both in the immediate after month as well as in the months and years that follow.

TIC can be applied throughout all levels of an organisation. So for example although it’s really important for individual workers to be trauma-informed and to incorporate this into your day-to-day practices and work scheduling outcomes can be improved for everyone when individuals are supported by TIC principles being implemented at the work team and whole of organisation levels.

So, what might this look like at an organisational level?

Trauma-informed organizations adapt their policies procedures and environments in a way that is mindful of people’s potential trauma histories at a minimum they aim to provide an increased sense of safety for service users and avoid any re-traumatization of trauma-impacted people. These aims have implication for members of an organisation throughout all phases of interaction with the community.

For example, each staff member in a GP practice or a similar health service setting has an important but a varied role in the way that they interact and support trauma-impacted individuals from the way that medical receptionists interact to the GP to the practice manager and to allied health workers the aims at TICs also has implications for all aspects of service delivery from creating a safe environment free of trauma reminders to minimizing the number of times a person needs to provide trauma details within a single organisation.

When workers are supported to learn or practice TIC, staff at all levels of an organisation can contribute to the recovery of individuals and community affected by trauma. There’s also other benefits and TIC is not only relevant when working with individuals who are acutely distressed by a recent trauma experience even though today’s discussion will be focusing on providing TIC following the aftermath of a disaster, incorporating TIC into your organisation will also prepare your service to support individuals with more distance experiences of all types of different traumas as well trauma-informed organizations also support worker well-being TIC emphasizes physical and psychological safety, helps to build a sense of control and empowerment for providers as well as for trauma-impacted people with whom providers will interact and in good news becoming a trauma informed organisation is not complicated.

TIC follows principles that are practical flexible and simple skills and knowledge and by following these principles, organisations can create an environment, and interact with trauma-impacted people in a way that helps to promote their recovery.

The implementation of TIC is guided by the six core principles. These principles are based on trauma-informed research by Hopper and his colleagues back in 2010, and also by what we know helps people recover from mental health conditions.

We’re now going to have a brief look at each of these principles and in particular how they can be integrated into practice at an organisational level.

So, Principle one: Trauma Awareness.

Trauma informs health services incorporate an understanding of trauma into their work this means that they’re aware of how trauma impacts people and how their experience of them… and also then how it impacts their experience of engaging with organisations and services at an organisational level this principle can have implications for staff training and for development for example organisations may orient staff perspectives on how to understand various behaviours that trauma-impacted people may present with and some of these will be challenging behaviours and then facilitate staff access to trauma-informed training consultations mentoring and supervision.

Principle two: Promoting Safety.

One of the key impacts of trauma is that individuals can feel unsafe either physically psychologically or both so trauma informed workers aim to promote a sense of safety but not just for the trauma impacted person but also for themselves. One way that organisations can promote a sense of safety is by providing a physically and emotionally safe space to work and engage with trauma-impacted individuals.

Principle three: Rebuilding Control.

It is recognized that people often lack a sense of control during a traumatic experience. We therefore seek to help trauma-impacted individuals rebuild that sense of control in order to create a foundation for building skills for recovery and one way that organizations can help rebuild a sense of control is to involve trauma-impacted people in the design and evaluation of the organisation’s procedures and the way that they deliver services.

Principle four:  Focus on Strengths.

Trauma-informed workers come from a strengths-based perspective seeking to encourage self-empowerment in the trauma-impacted individuals they work with. And to encourage self-empowerment, organisations might work to identify and assess the trauma-impacted person’s skills and resources alongside screening for assessment at screening, and assessment of their trauma history and other mental health issues. So by finding out what those strengths and skills are, being able to then maximize those.

Principle five:  Promote Connection.

Connection to social support networks and professional support systems play a critical role in promoting resilience and recovery from trauma. To help facilitate connections to support, an organisation might emphasise community members existing relationships to organisations, other service systems and social support networks, and help to also facilitate positive connections where possible and where necessary. But they might find that there’s gaps in there in their social networks. And then finally a belief in recovery we know that trauma-impacted people can and do recover from the impacts of trauma promoting belief in recovery conveys a sense of hope, an expectation of recovery and resilience, whilst also communicating and understanding that there are definitely challenges to recovery. Organisations can reinforce this belief in recovery through facilitating work or education skills and competencies.

So what I’ve given you here are fairly generic examples of how TIC can be applied across healthcare and other settings, but even from these generic examples I’m hoping that many of you will realise that you’re already incorporating some if not all of these principles into your work even if you hadn’t labelled them as TIC principles. And hopefully I’ve also provided some reassurance that the application of TIC principles even at an organizational level doesn’t have to be particularly difficult or onerous. But it does require some thinking through and planning to successfully implement and then maintain the application of these principles across the different levels of the organisation.

Thank you.