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Clinic improves care by understanding trauma

Posted at 12:44 PM, Jul 11, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-11 13:45:11-04

Trauma is a hard and personal battle.

Yet, it's not entirely uncommon since more than two-thirds of American adults have experienced trauma at some point in their lives, according to health experts.

As medical professionals delve into further understanding the effects, hospitals and clinics are undergoing trauma-informed training to improve their patient care.

The Charles Drew Health Center, located south of 30th and Lake streets, adopted a new approach a few years ago to make its environment more inviting, said Tiffany White-Welchen,  a senior director of behavioral health services.

The health center stripped its plexiglass from the check-in counter and pushed back the security guard from the waiting line, she said.

White-Welchen reveals most of its patients fall into the U.S. statistic related to trauma experiences.

Trauma is defined as an emotional and tragic event which leaves some type of pain, she said.

It can be psychological or physical.

"It can be anything from a car accident to child abuse or neglect," said Jessica Kroeker, a training specialist at Project Harmony.

The spectrum includes community violence, poverty, divorce and more, she told 3 News Now.

The organization is also leading the charge in promoting awareness in the metro by hosting training sessions to not only first responders and  healthcare professionals, but to anyone who is on the frontline of observing the signs of trauma in others - such as teachers and their students.

We want to create organizations that can really respond to those who've been impacted by trauma, Kroeker said.

White-Welchen said she underwent training ahead of Mayor Jean Stothert's announcement for a citywide initiative in 2017. 

The mission is to have five percent of the city's population, or 22,000 people, become trauma-informed. 

More than 7,400 have attended the training to date, according to the site Trauma Matters Omaha.

Once aware, White-Welchen said she shared her knowledge with the health center and changes immediately followed.

Besides aesthetics, other improvements include replacing the word "trauma" with "resiliency" when speaking to patients while encouraging them to share their story once with staff to avoid re-traumatization.

But, the clinic also needed to take precautions to protect employees.

To build camaraderie and negate burnout and post-secondary trauma after listening to patients' stories, White-Welchen says the center encourages staff to wear shirts every Wednesday with the words: I am resilient.

She also leaves positive messages on a white board near the nurse's station.

On a recent visit, she read aloud: Happiness is an-going process.

"It takes the right attitudes and activities to continue to be happy," White-Welchen said.

Likewise, resiliency is also a process and created within a safe network.