Recognizing The Different Signs Of Trauma

A high school teenager is brought into the emergency room by a friend. The two were at a party and she became unconscious from the amount of alcohol she consumed.

“I feel so sick,” she told the nurse.

“Don’t worry, we will take care of you here,” the nurse said. “We will make sure you don’t fall unconscious again. There will be no more pain.”

“The pain I’ve had has been there for much longer than just tonight,” she replies.

The pain this young girl was experiencing stretches far beyond just her “wild night”. On the outside, she seemed like everything was going well for her. Growing up, she always had clean clothes for school, her belly was always full, and her grades were up-to-par.

However, her parents divorced due to abuse by the time she was nine years old, her older brother died by suicide a year before she started high school, and as a result her mother fell into a cycle of depression. She experienced some powerful adverse childhood experiences. The nurse at the ER did not know any of this information.

Asking questions about her life beyond just the physical aspect of health could have allowed the nurse to understand the individual as a whole and ultimately provide more patient-centered, wholesome, and trauma-specific nurturing.

Trauma-informed care is often overlooked by many health care professionals. In fact, trauma-informed communities and organizations are scarce. The notion involves recognizing that trauma can appear in many different forms, not just physical.

Bikur cholim, a Jewish responsibility, requires us as a community, not just hospitals, to take care of those who are facing difficulties. Whether through treatment, fundraising, visitation, or even offering a compassionate hand, we must recognize those who have endured pain and suffering of any kind. Oftentimes, we fail to acknowledge that trauma can take any form. It is not only physical—it can be mental, emotional, spiritual, and many others.

The nurse treating the girl in this story could have inquired about the patient’s inner well-being. By asking questions like, “who do you turn to for support?” and “have you reached out to anyone?” could have allowed the nurse to delve deeper into the patients history. Her friend that went to the party with her should have offered a listening ear when she needed it most. This girl is truly in need of social and emotional support from close family & friends, health professionals, and the community—not only treatment for alcohol poisoning.

As a candidate for a Master of Public Health, and a future medical student, I have a genuine interest for helping with the health of individuals and the communities we belong to.

While interning at UF Hillel, I have been encouraged to make social good a priority in my life, and have incorporated that with my passion for health and trauma-informed care.

Trauma-informed care is not only meant for health professionals and counselors, but is a social responsibility-infused treatment framework that can be implemented within communities.

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