Championing Trauma-Informed Care in Pediatrics

After a physical illness or injury, the emotional impact is an important aspect of healing to consider, too. Multiple avenues of research, clinical care, and training at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia are increasing the reach of trauma-informed care, which can help to prevent or minimize emotional trauma for children and families facing injury, illness, and hospitalization.

One recent study, published in Pediatric Emergency Care, found that one in six children experienced clinically significant psychological symptoms, including post-traumatic stress and depression, several months after they were seen for an unintentional injury in a hospital emergency department (ED). So did one in six of their parents.

“This result argues for the importance of trauma-informed care, including anticipatory guidance about emotional recovery for the whole family,” said Nancy Kassam-Adams, PhD, associate director of behavioral research at the Center for Injury Research and Prevention (CIRP) and director of  the Center for Pediatric Traumatic Stress at CHOP, who led the study.

Among such efforts at CHOP, research has helped to identify some of the risk factors that can worsen a parent or child’s trajectory for recovery, such as prior traumatic experiences, poorly controlled pain, and coping by withdrawing.

CHOP researchers have also developed evidence-based resources to promote emotional recovery after an injury, such as a website for parents of injured children, www.AfterTheInjury.org, along with provider tools at www.HealthCareToolbox.org.

Dr. Kassam-Adams and her team’s ongoing research is evaluating an online game platform called Coping Coach as a screening tool in the weeks after discharge. Her team can send messages to parents and doctors if a child’s responses to questions in the game signal a possible need for intervention. 

CHOP’s Violence Prevention Initiative rolled out a comprehensive model to help a wide spectrum of healthcare providers, including ED staff, receive on-the-job training for trauma-informed care. The framework is based on research from CIRP that appeared in JAMA Pediatrics

See the full version of this article in the January 2016 issue of Bench to Bedside.

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