Author: Student Taskforce on ACEs and Resilience Board Members
Decades of research have revealed the impacts of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and trauma – or experiences that overwhelm a person’s ability to cope- on health. Chronic exposure to toxic stress can increase risk of chronic diseases, alter brain structure, impact all body systems, and affect an individual’s ability to learn and function at their full potential. There is a growing movement to equip people working in health-related fields with the skills and knowledge to better care for people impacted by trauma and even prevent it in the first place. Despite the significant impacts that trauma and childhood adversity can have on physical, emotional, and social wellbeing, many health professionals across disciplines receive minimal training in trauma-informed care.
To address this issue, on Saturday, October 19, 2019, H-STAT’s Student Taskforce on ACEs and Resilience (STAR) and Resilient Georgia hosted an inaugural student-run conference on trauma-informed care. Nearly 100 students and professionals from across Georgia and a variety of disciplines – medicine, nursing, public health, mental health, spiritual health, and social work – gathered to build critical skills needed to prevent, recognize, and mitigate trauma. While recognition and discussion of trauma-informed care have increased within this community, this training sought to provide practical techniques that providers may be able to implement when caring for patients and populations alike.
Dr. Audrey Stillerman, a co-founder of The Center for the Collaborative Study of Trauma, Health Equity, and Neurobiology (THEN), kicked off the conference with a keynote address on the science of adversity, as well as ways to foster Dr Bruce Perry’s three R’s needed to prevent and overcome trauma: Regulate, Relate, Reason. In addition to describing the effects of trauma on patients, Dr. Stillerman provided many examples of how employing trauma-informed approaches to patients also benefits healthcare providers by reducing provider burnout, decreasing office visits and hospitalizations, and even cutting costs. After her talk, conference attendees could attend up to 3 out of the following expert-led workshops:
- How to Perform a Trauma-Informed Physical Exam
- Self-Regulation Skill-Building for Practitioners and Their Patients
- Implementing Culturally Competent Trauma-informed Care in Hospital Settings: The Importance of Race and Racism
- Community Resiliency Model: Mental Wellness Skills Training
- Trauma-Informed Care in the Primary Care Setting
- Trauma-Responsive Parenting: Tips for Caregivers
- Primary Prevention of Trauma: Facilitating Relational Health in Clinic
- Asking Children and Adults about Sensitive Information
- What is Re-Traumatization and How to Avoid It
- The How of Trauma-Informed Care: Applying Principles for Self-Care and Resilience
The conference closed with a keynote address by Dr. Shanta Dube, one of the early research investigators on the CDC-Kaiser ACE study, who shared invaluable insight regarding the influence that the science of adversity and resilience has had nationally over the past two decades. Dr. Dube discussed the need for continued work to raise awareness and acceptance about ACEs, especially in the healthcare sector, and the need for more widespread adoption of trauma-informed practices, cross-sector partnerships, and a salutogenic paradigm for health, which prioritizes resiliency and holistic wellbeing rather than merely response to disease.
Many attendees left desirous for more time to learn and practice how to effectively implement the content they learned over the course of the half-day training. STAR hopes that this will be only one of many training opportunities in the coming months and years in a state-wide effort to build the next generation of public servants equipped with the skills to change lives and systems through trauma-informed care.