Healthcare providers taking steps to ensure trauma survivors feel safe at the doctor’s office

By Elizabeth Starr, LCSW

Elizabeth Starr

Last week, social media feeds around the country were filled with the #MeToo hashtag – as millions of men and women told stories of how they had survived sexual abuse, harassment or domestic violence. It was a sobering reminder of how common these traumas are.

I was fortunate, during that same week I witnessed first-hand part of the response to that trauma – an overflow crowd of healthcare providers and other community agencies meeting in Kentucky at a WellCare-sponsored conference on better serving trauma survivors. If that event had a hashtag, it would have been #WeCare.

Most of us know that if someone is in a bad accident, they may be scared to drive. And soldiers who experienced battleground trauma may be anxious during fireworks celebrations. But have you thought about the anxiety a rape victim may feel even years later, sitting alone, in a paper gown, in an exam room – or during the exam itself.

Trauma Informed Care” is the term that we use in the mental healthcare world to talk about ways that doctors’ offices, health clinics and hospitals can make everyone feel as comfortable as possible when seeking care.

In part, this means recognizing the signs of past trauma – and understanding that past traumatic experiences may be a factor in substance abuse, depression or other mental health conditions.

But it also means making trauma survivors comfortable enough to get the routine care that everyone needs. Mammograms, pap smears, routine blood pressure checks… These types of procedures are an important way for us to catch problems early, when they can best be treated. We must eliminate all the barriers that keep people from these types of screenings  – including the discomfort and fear that trauma survivors may feel.

At WellCare, we are committed to working with community health departments, healthcare providers, and the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services to improve the lives of all Kentuckians. Last week, was a powerful reminder of the breadth of the challenge – but also of the commitment of Kentuckians to rise to the challenge. If the question is, who is going to step up and help, last week I saw about 200 people saying: “Metoo!”

Elizabeth Starr, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, is WellCare of Kentucky’s Manager of Advocacy and Community Based Programs. Her work was recognized earlier this year when she was named a Health Care Hero by Louisville Business First.



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Ben Keeton

Publisher at Medical News
Ben is the publisher of Medical News and focuses on the business of healthcare in Kentucky.
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