Saturday, April 13, 2013
Medical Injury and Trauma
I took a two day course in New York City called Pastoral Crisis Intervention. I called ahead to find out that I didn’t need to be a pastor or religious leader to take the course. Although most of the sixteen participants were clergy of some type, the skills I learned in those two days had very little to do with being a religious leader.
Tragedy and trauma that someone may encounter after an event can be obvious or subtle. Learning the mental state of a person following a trauma, making an assessment and possibly a need for referral must be fast and accurate.
Patients or family members who have suffered a medical error or anything that causes them to distrust or question the healthcare system can be severely traumatic. At our most vulnerable, due to illness, injury or just age, we need to trust those who are caring for us and often making life decisions. Each time we are asked to sign a consent (which won’t happen in an emergency anyway) we are trusting the professionals to do the right thing. When that trust is broken, then what? It’s not like we can say let’s do this over.
There is a cost to not receiving help that goes beyond the patient’s rights. Patients or their family members may avoid care until an illness needs attention that costs more and takes more time. Avoiding treatment because a patient is fearful of the healthcare system is a symptom of post traumatic stress. Not being able to overcome their fear, anger or depression because someone they love was injured or killed by a medical error, medication error or hospital acquired infection can be deadly.
When there is an unplanned outcome with someone’s medical treatment, it is important that they are assessed for trauma. It can make a big difference in their future medical care and that of the people close to them.