A new initiative to support trauma survivors in healthcare settings has been launched across Essex.
Healthwatch Essex Trauma Ambassador Group has created ‘Trauma Awareness Cards’ to empower individuals who have experienced trauma to communicate more effectively with healthcare professionals. The cards are designed to be handed to a healthcare professional when a cardholder finds themselves in a triggering situation, to enable them to get the support they need.
A QR code on the reverse of the card can be scanned by a healthcare professional to obtain information about the individual and how to help them. The cards are due to be rolled out at the start of November, and are expected to be used in a wide range of healthcare environments, from dentist surgeries to Accident & Emergency wards.
The Trauma Ambassador Group exists to help improve health and care environments for people who are living with the effects of trauma. The group’s members have all experienced trauma, with a wide variety of different causes – ranging from domestic abuse, sexual abuse, exposure to crime and bereavement.
The initial idea for the card was sparked by group member, 57-year-old John Wills from Brightlingsea, who is a survivor of child sexual abuse. John also brought knowledge from his later work as a therapist and his discussions with other group members revealed that it was common to experience trauma being triggered in unexpected situations, such as at a dentist or during a health check. John felt that services had not improved much since he first reached out for support, so he wanted to create the cards to improve experiences for others.
“I carry the trauma card because I really need health professionals to understand that some of these situations are really quite difficult for me and make me very anxious. Sometimes there isn’t the opportunity to open the conversation up about this subject, so simply by handing over the card it starts the dialogue. I hope it will allow health professionals feel able to ask me what I need as a survivor of trauma. They forget just how traumatic and triggering some of these procedures can be for someone who has suffered trauma.”
To show the card in action, John and the rest of the group helped create a short film with Michelle Wilkinson, an Advanced Nurse Practitioner at Beacon House, Colchester.
“I know these cards will be very helpful to many of the people I see day to day. Often because of their background – domestic violence, abuse, war or veteran’s services – there may be sounds or noises that affect them in a way that we wouldn’t appreciate. The card just gives us a heads up – an introduction that this patient might shut down within a certain situation. We can then use this to look at the website to give us tips and clues as to how to make the journey better for the patient. Things like offering a quiet area, double appointments, reducing distractions and sounds, may make this a more positive experience for our patients.”
To get a Trauma Card for yourself or to find out more about Healthwatch Essex and the Trauma Ambassador Group, visit www.healthwatchessex.org.uk/trauma or call 0300 500 1895.