Spotlight on: the Safeguarding team’s trauma-informed approach

Our patients are at the centre of everything we do, and a new approach being led by the Safeguarding team aims to help us understand how previous traumatic experiences might still be impacting them to improve their care and wellbeing.

Alongside their colleagues in the Complex Health Hub, the Safeguarding team are developing pathways for us to become a “trauma-informed organisation”.

“This means encouraging everyone to shift the emphasis to asking patients ‘what’s happened to you?’ instead of ‘what’s wrong with you?’,” said Tina Chuma, Lead Professional for Safeguarding.

“We’re at the beginning of this culture shift and we’re working with colleagues to help them take our compassionate care to the next level.

“Our role is not only to cure physical illnesses but to be kind and compassionate and have a holistic understanding of individuals’ situations, past and present. This can help us to recognise how to support patients and colleagues or identify which services they may need.

“We also need to be mindful that some individuals might have had at least one Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE). Examples of ACEs can include growing up in a family where parents are divorced or suffering a bereavement or different forms of abuse or neglect.

“These can have an accumulative negative effect on health and wellbeing, raising the risk of developing conditions such as lung disease, diabetes, cancer and depression.

“Patients won’t always feel comfortable to admit that they may be struggling and the trauma-informed approach emphasises physical, psychological and emotional safety and aims to entrust individuals to re-establish control of their lives and build their resilience.

“It’s important for us to understand what might trigger negative feelings, for example, if a patient lost a relative at this hospital previously, returning for an operation might be traumatic for them, so it’s vital we ask the right questions.

“The same approach applies to our own colleagues who we work with.  We should be aware that some individuals may have experienced trauma in their past which is impacting on them now, so we can try to identify signs that they may need extra support, and we can have the confidence to ask them if they are ok.”

The Complex Health Hub is developing dedicated pathways for patients and colleagues and building training packages on how to adopt a trauma-informed approach.

“This will be a real culture shift, as we work to review our policies and develop more bespoke mandatory training to help us all understand the benefits of this approach,” said Tina.

“This whole new approach won’t happen overnight, but some actions have already been rolled out. We’ve formed a Complex Health working group and some of the care offered by the Chaplaincy or the Samaritans who work on site, are also part of this.”

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