Healthcare practitioners have carried a particularly heavy burden being on the front lines of emergency response efforts of COVID-19 while seeing their community members experience traumas via loss of health and economic stability. Even outside of a pandemic, practitioners and those they serve bring their own personal histories, traumas and adversities into their healthcare agencies. For health leaders to best support their staff and community members, the following efforts can be made towards becoming a trauma-informed organization with focus on supporting resilience and healing and protecting healthcare staff from traumatic stress.
Get full staff participation.
All members of your organization should be trained on how trauma impacts staff members and visitors and what it means to be a trauma-informed organization. It should not just fall on leadership or behavioral health staff members.
Evaluate your physical environment.
Consider the setup of your offices and waiting rooms and how layout affects or supports people’s feelings of safety. Things like chair backs to doors, for example, could be a trigger to people with a personal history of trauma.
Foster a culture of emotional safety.
Build a culture where people can comfortably express their emotions, be themselves and not be ostracized if they need time, space or expression when stress is weighing on them. Have supervisors regularly check in with employees and consider setting up staff mindfulness, meditation and discussion group meetings to give employees safe places to restore calm and self-regulate their emotions.
Evaluate human resource policies.
Make sure all supervisory policies are applied consistently and your organization supports diversity and inclusion. Promote well-being and prevent burnout with things like access to employee assistance programs, methods of providing feedback without fear of retribution and encouragement of employees to confidently have a voice in their work.
Evaluate your digital environment.
Don’t forget clinician burnout is often attributed to technology. Be sure your organization uses tools to ease burdens of staff and does not contribute to their stressors. The EHR system you use is very important to evaluate for this. It can also impact your community members because a great EHR with a patient portal can make it easier for patients to make appointments and receive care. It can also be a tool to send out messages about coping with trauma in emergencies.
Beyond considering your own staff’s needs, be sure to include clients and community members in the planning process of creating a trauma-informed healthcare facility. Also consider collaborating with other trauma-informed organizations to share resources, support, training programs and community engagement initiatives. With these considerations, policies and networks in place your healthcare organization can effectively support your staff and community members through times of crisis.