Protecting Healthcare Staff from Traumatic Stress

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Protecting Healthcare Staff from Traumatic Stress

trauma-informed health department

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.

More Resources on Trauma-Informed Transformation:

Patagonia Health Releases COVID-19 Risk Assessment and Public Health Management Decision Making Tool

COVID-19 Risk Assessment Tool will become available to all Patagonia Health EHR Users

Patagonia Health, an Electronic Health Record (EHR) focused in Public and Behavioral Health, is in the final stages of developing a COVID-19 Risk Assessment and Public Health Management Decision Making Tool. Public Health professionals are on the front lines of combating the growing COVID-19 pandemic. Local Public Health agencies are tasked with identifying cases of COVID-19 and working with government officials on how to advise the community on precautionary measures. 

The risk assessment and decision-making tool in Patagonia Health works to automatically categorize an individual’s risk of infection. Similar to screening tools developed during previous public health emergencies, such as the Ebola outbreak, the COVID-19 Risk Assessment tool follows CDC guidelines exactly. The assessment will automatically open during the patient check-in process. The software will automatically categorize the patient’s risk level and save the results directly to the patient record. 

Additionally, Patagonia Health is working with LabCorp to facilitate the distribution of COVID-19 test kits. Users who have the LabCorp bi-directional lab interface can order COVID-19 test kits directly through Patagonia Health EHR. COVID-19 ICD10 diagnostic and CPT codes are updated and available to users in the interface. The assessment tool will become available to all Patagonia Health EHR users, free of charge, by March 23, 2020. 

About Patagonia Health, Inc.

Patagonia Health, Inc. is a healthcare software supplier with a cloud and apps-based software solution that is designed specifically for Public and Behavioral Health agencies. The solution includes an integrated, federally-certified, Electronic Health Record (EHR), Practice Management (PM) and Billing software. The company’s mission is to solve two major barriers to EHR adoption − usability and cost − and address customers’ number one problem: billing. Patagonia Health’s highly-intelligent solution is extremely easy to use and provides timely data for organizations to improve workflow, streamline operations and take their organizations to the next level. For more information, visit

7 Levels of Service & Support You Should Demand from Your EHR Vendor

Contact Support

When it comes to selecting an EHR software, there are many attributes of the system to consider and compare before choosing. Many EHRs on the market today will be focused on your particular needs and may even cost about the same, but how do you know what you’ll get after go-live?  Will you experience easy sailing or extreme frustration?  This will highly depend on two things: the “can-do” attitude of your staff and the accessibility of your vendor.  In both cases “communication” is key.


People need to have the right attitude, knowledge, and experience for working through the change involved in moving from either paper or an old EHR to a modern new EHR.  So getting an EHR optimized for your clinic type (e.g. public Health, FQHC, Family Planning, etc.) and upfront, in-depth training are critical.  For various functions (e.g. patient registration, immunization, family planning, billing), it will be best to identify and grow champions or “super users” of the new EHR.  These super users can become internal go-to resources for ongoing internal issues.  Even still, your staff will need to contact the vendor’s support team from time to time, so they must have accessible channels to reach them during the real-time needs they operate under.


Multiple access methods allow for improved accessibility.  Here are seven levels of user support and service techniques (from easy questions to in-depth troubleshooting) which you should expect from your EHR vendor:


Built-in Support button: Does your system include a direct access to online support?  Direct online connection allows quicker turnaround for your questions, and is usually the best way to go as long as there are responsive people on the other end of the support request; people with knowledge and troubleshooting capabilities.


Screen shots:  Smarter EHRs now include a support button which captures screen shots of the user’s screen and sends it directly to the support team.  Screen shots offer visual clarification of your problem occurrence, and should be able to be submitted via online support access or email, any time of day.  These are important when verbal descriptions are not enough to convey the problem details.


Phone access: There will be times when you just want to talk to a person so a live support person who understands your clinic workflow (e.g. for public health, FQHC, primary care) needs to be accessible.  You should never end up navigating through a phone tree only to land in voicemail!  If you do not get a live person when you call in a support request, you are almost guaranteed a delay in your resolution.


Access to self-help knowledge base: Sure, a support person explained everything on the phone, but now you wish to get access to the written knowledge base article to follow the step-by-step instructions.  A good knowledge base helps users learn advanced capabilities of the EHR.  Also, does the EHR have built in videos for self-learning?  Whether it is a new system for your department, or you have a new hire that may not be familiar with the system, a library of how-to’s can be a very useful resource.


Desk-top sharing: For true troubleshooting needs, sharing your screen with the support personnel, allows them to follow the user’s workflow, check settings, or visually see something that you may not think to tell them, which just might be the root of the problem.  Desk-top sharing, conducted through virtual (online) meetings allow real-time trouble shooting for faster resolution, like everyone is in the same room!


Ongoing Learning: Just like any new technology, no one can learn all the features your EHR has.  Does your EHR vendor offer an ongoing additional training program, via webinar or user focus groups?  Are the EHR vendor experts easily available to you or are you dealing with a big company where you cannot find the right expert?


Executive Access: Some questions are more appropriately addressed at the executive level.  Are your EHR executives available and willing to have these conversations?


Resolutions to your support requests should be provided the same day for simple issues and within days for more in-depth issues.  For this to be achieved, accessibility to your vendor should be ever present.  Communications keep the processes smooth, and help make sure your workflow has minimal interruptions.