Reframing Trauma Informed Care as a Systems Approach

Dec 20, 2022 | Housing is Health |

This podcast and blog post is presented by the National Nurse-led Care Consortium (NNCC) and describes the unique needs of residents of public housing, underserved racial and ethnic communities, and other special and vulnerable populations and the role community health centers can play in addressing healing and trauma recovery. The below blog post will detail the examples presented in the podcast and provide additional resources for health centers.

What is trauma-informed care?

In this episode, our speakers deliver a topical conversation on trauma-informed care, defined here as recognizing and responding to the impact of traumatic stress while treating all patients and providing psychological safety. Though frequently used in the workforce, the psychological safety mentioned in this episode is regarding patient-provider relationships. As a fundamental tool in trauma-informed care, psychological safety aids in building trust between the patient and provider, helping patients feel they can share anything and fully be themselves without fear of being scrutinized or diminished. Cultivating this type of care requires a holistic systems approach to generate patient-provider relationships through a trauma-informed lens. Trauma-informed care often utilizes the trauma-informed approach developed by the Substance and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) for the best quality care and efficient care planning.

Trauma-informed model in Practice 

Implementing trauma-informed care requires a culture of professionals to understand and recognize the symptoms of trauma. In practice, providers should put the patient at the center of the care team and address the whole person when caring for patients. Whole-person wellness refers to treating not only the patient's symptoms but understanding and considering the impact of non-medical drives of health that may affect the patient. In this episode, Kathleen and Sara share the importance of health professionals developing strong interpersonal skills, including active listening, self-awareness, deepening compassion, and self-regulation for whole-person wellness. 

Why trauma-informed care?

By following the principles of trauma-informed care, both patients and providers can receive benefits. Trauma-informed care allows patients to feel empowered and in control of their health. Following the trauma-informed principles, patient-provider power dynamics are deconstructed,  and a healthier trusting relationship is created. Patients are met with humility and safety, creating a space for more transparency and openness with providers, leading to more collaboration in their care plan and long-term positive health outcomes. 

Health Workforce Impact 

While treating and serving communities heavily impacted by traumatic stress and adverse events, the healthcare workforce and retention can be negatively affected. In this episode, Kathleen shares staff grounding exercises that hold space for office affirmations and check-ins before meetings. In return, these practices and reflections amongst the staff aid in not only mitigating burnout and staff turnover but also helping providers to see patients as they see themselves. 

Meet the speakers

Kathleen Metzker is the Director of Integrative Health and mind-body services at the Stephen and Sandra Sheller 11th Family Health Services at Drexel University in partnership with the Family Practice and Counseling Network, a federally qualified community health center (FQHC) in Philadelphia. This FQHC serves a community populated primarily with Black Americans, people negatively impacted by the social determinants of health (SDOH), including public housing communities. Many children utilizing this health center are at increased risk for adverse childhood experiences that impact their minds and bodies later in life. In this episode, Kathleen shares implementation strategies you can replicate in your health center.

Sara Reid is a health educator, support group facilitator, and consumer board member for Boston Healthcare for the Homeless. Boston Healthcare for the Homeless serves communities facing substance use disorder, asylum seekers, and those seeking gender-affirming care. Sara also trains health professionals to deliver the highest quality of care. In this episode, Sara shares best practices of care planning and treating the “whole person.”

Additional Resources

Click Here for more information on getting your organization coaching on implementing trauma-informed practices in your health center!


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Support for this episode comes from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). It is part of an award totaling $550,000 with zero percentage financed with non-governmental sources. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by HRSA, HHS, or the U.S. Government.


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About The Author

Kyra Cummings

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