Protecting children and adolescents through trauma-informed pediatric care
No one wants to be subject to trauma, but it can be especially confusing and damaging for children and adolescents. It’s important for parents and pediatricians to have a trusted resource to support children with trauma, which is why the Center for Pediatric Traumatic Stress is so valuable.
The center recently celebrated its 20th anniversary—a marker of its long-standing success.
“The primary goal of the center is to take evidence-based resources, what we know from science, and translate them into materials healthcare teams can then use in their daily practice with kids and families,” said Dr. Meghan Marsac, pediatric psychologist at Kentucky Children's Hospital and Associate Director of the Center for Pediatric Traumatic Stress.
This includes introducing strategies proven to help kids and families when they're going through medical treatment. “Healthcare providers can use strategies routinely in their care of families,” Dr. Marsac said. “We also create resources, such as tip sheets and workbooks to try to empower parents and kids so they can best navigate the healthcare experience.”
Multidisciplinary Approach Ensures Care for All Types of Trauma
“Trauma” is not defined by one type of event. For example, many kids undergo trauma when getting routine vaccinations. The anticipation of a needle prick can be incredibly stressful and anxiety-inducing. Other children experience trauma in extreme circumstances, such as cancer treatment or surviving a horrible accident. Trauma also encompasses abuse and neglect.
“We work as a medical team to identify when these challenges exist for kids and families and what we can do to prevent or address trauma when it does happen,” Dr. Marsac said.
The center offers a multidisciplinary team of physicians, emergency room physicians, pediatricians, nurses, social workers, psychologists—as well as family representatives. “We have teams of parents with kids who have a lot of interaction with the healthcare system,” explains Dr. Marsac. “They give us feedback on initiatives we're creating to make sure we're meeting the needs of families, too.”
Training is integral to the center’s operations. Staff members have trained thousands of medical providers across the nation on how to integrate trauma-informed medical practice into their daily care. They provide free online continuing education courses for nurses and other healthcare professionals, as well as downloadable handouts in both English and Spanish as a resource for families.
Identifying Trauma, and Next Steps
In children, trauma is not always readily apparent. They may not know how to express what they’re feeling or keep things inside because they are fearful to speak up. Parents can be on the lookout for any changes to their child’s emotional health, such as different eating or sleeping patterns. Anytime a parent notices such symptoms, it's a great idea to follow up with the child's pediatrician. Doing so ensures everyone in the family is being taken care of.
“When we think about parenting, you are your child's champion. But, if you're feeling overwhelmed with your child's emotions or behaviors or medical treatment, there's help for you as well. So, just think about both your child's symptoms and needs, advocating and continuing to ask questions if you're not getting the answers you feel are supporting your child in the way they need to be supported,” Dr. Marsac said. “Also, keeping in mind your own health and making sure you're getting the proper support you need as a parent or caregiver.”