6 Tips to Help Identify Trauma Patients in Your Practice

Trauma Patients: How to Identify Them and What to Do

Trauma can happen to anyone, regardless of age, race, or gender. Healthcare providers must be able to identify trauma victims and provide them with the appropriate urgent care services that they need to help them recover from their injuries.

If you’re unsure whether a patient is a trauma victim, there are some signs and symptoms that may be helpful to watch for. Here are six tips to help you identify potential trauma victims in your practice:

Tip #1 Look for physical signs of trauma


The most common sign of trauma is an injury, but not all injuries are apparent at first glance. In addition to watching for physical signs of trauma, keep a special lookout for patients who have trouble breathing or decreased mental status.

Even if someone has no physical signs of major injury and is conscious and talking, their body might need urgent care. For example, a trauma victim’s airway can swell and close without visible damage to the face or neck, but the patient could be airway and breathing compromised.

Tip #2 Watch for behavioral changes


Trauma victims can also exhibit behavioral changes. Keep an eye out for agitation, restlessness, or confusion in trauma victims who are awake and conscious. These can be a sign of a head injury or brain trauma. Watch for lethargy, dizziness, and nausea in patients who have been injured in motor vehicle accidents, as they could have a concussion.

Also, monitor behavior changes in patients who may not want to move for fear of aggravating an injury. If someone is conscious but doesn’t want to move because it hurts, they might have a spinal or pelvic injury. The point is, don’t assume that every patient is okay until you’ve had a chance to get them assessed thoroughly.

Tip #3 Be aware of emotional responses


Be aware of how a patient is acting – angry, withdrawn, or agitated. These can indicate that the patient has experienced either physical or psychological trauma. Plus, if someone exhibits signs of shock or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), they may need psychological counseling and medication.

That’s why it’s also important to ask family members what happened and whether the person had been experiencing mood changes before the traumatic event. This is because the patient might need psychiatric help not only for treating injuries but also for coping with the emotional trauma.

Tip #4 Subtly ask about traumatic events


It’s important to ask questions about the patient’s medical history, but sometimes patients might be hesitant to disclose whether they were involved in a traumatic event. Therefore, focus the questions around how the patient feels and clarify that you’re not asking because you think there’s something wrong with them.

Ask open-ended questions such as, “How are you feeling?” or “Do you feel okay?” You could also ask questions like how the patient felt before and after the traumatic event, such as how they were feeling just before the crash and whether they’ve been having nightmares or trouble sleeping since then.

Tip #5 Listen for cues that indicate trauma has occurred


Listen to what your patient says, look for inconsistencies in their story, and watch for alterations in their behavior. When a patient is experiencing a traumatic event, they may not remember details or have trouble remembering things that happened recently. The patient might also feel detached from the situation as if they were watching events unfold rather than participating in them themselves.

Also, pay attention to the patient’s memories, such as whether they initiate storytelling or if it seems like they’re avoiding telling their story. If someone cannot recall the events that took place in the traumatic event and cannot describe their injuries, it’s crucial to call for help.

Tip #6 Offer support and resources


If you suspect that a patient is struggling with psychological trauma, ask if they’ve considered counseling or joining a support group. You can even offer your own services or resources that might be helpful since you may be seeing this person more than once.

It’s also important to encourage your patient that they’re not alone and share resources with the family to help them cope with the traumatic situation. You can offer websites, brochures, or phone numbers for local resources to the patient and family members. This way, they can have access to help during the healing process.

The most important thing to remember is that while you may not know if a patient is experiencing trauma, it’s okay to ask how they feel, even if you suspect that something happened. You can talk to your patient about what’s happening and offer them the support and resources they need to get better.

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