Healthcare, stethoscope in hand and African doctor in hospital

Trauma-informed organizations

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will be able to:

  1. Describe how the principles of trauma-informed care are applied at the organizational level
  2. Describe how implementing TIC can help organizations better support clients and staff
  3. Identify how to implement TIC
Doctor, physician or medical professional doing paperwork in gp office checking online form, record.

Why build an organization that is trauma-informed?

  • Every organization is impacted by trauma
  • Trauma-informed organizations:
    • Make decisions that better address situational demands
    • Show a high regard for staff and patient wellness
    • Strive to demonstrate safety, trustworthiness, collaboration, and empowerment in all interactions, decisions, policies, and procedures

Now that you understand the prevalence and impact of trauma on a person’s health, let’s discuss how to bring trauma-informed care into an organization. 

Trauma-informed organizations support the delivery of compassionate care by prioritizing staff and patient wellness. Staff are offered the same self-regulation, self-compassion, and self-care skills they provide to their patients.

The COVID-19 pandemic has strained human resources in healthcare organizations, creating unprecedented challenges and mental health impacts. For organizations struggling with worker retention and program and service delivery, trauma-informed care offers a way forward.

Trauma-informed organizations acknowledge that safe and respectful care is not just the work of healthcare providers but the responsibility of the entire organization. They also acknowledge that safety extends beyond the client, and that HCPs must be able to count on their organizations to maintain their own safety within the work environment. 

Staff who feel safe and respected in their workplace are more likely to deliver the same care to their patients.

In hospital diversity Doctor standing in line proud pose portrait in front of surgery operation room

Benefits of implementing trauma-informed care

  • Increase staff retention
  • Enhance healthcare providers’ ability to cope
  • Prevent secondary trauma or trauma-related symptoms in staff
  • Create a workforce knowledgeable about trauma and its impacts
  • Support organizational risk management

Implementing trauma-informed care can help organizations:

  • Increase staff retention by promoting safety and ongoing support
  • Support and encourage healthcare providers to learn about and engage in effective coping strategies
  • Prevent secondary trauma or trauma-related symptoms in staff
  • Create a diverse workforce of staff knowledgeable about trauma and its impacts
  • Manage risk while enhancing the quality of care delivered to clients
Cropped shot of a senior man with a walking stick being comforted by nurse in the hospice.Care worker helping to elderly patients to walk in geriatric clinic.

Trauma-informed organizations promote physical safety

  • Safe physical spaces
  • Minimized environmental triggers
  • Privacy and personal space
  • Appropriate interpretation services

Patients who have experienced trauma can be retraumatized by seemingly safe and standard treatment and procedures. Ensuring trauma-informed physical spaces can help ensure clients have a comfortable visit. For example, ensure parking lots and sidewalks are well lit, directions and signage are provided at frequent intervals, and are clear. Provide staffing such as volunteers to give directions if needed. Minimize potential triggers by limiting noise and disruptions, such as nighttime overhead announcements, loud nurse calls, and hourly rounds at night.

Safe environments also ensure privacy and personal space is respected. Some examples include conducting exams in rooms that don’t feel isolating or confining, and having patients examined by a member of the same gender.

You should always make patients feel understood. For example, providing appropriate interpretation services rather than burdening family members with translation.

Doctor, medical office and black man writing notes, form or life insurance paperwork

Trauma-informed organizations promote emotional safety

  • Develop and implement policies
  • Change the thinking
  • Change the language
  • Share power and control
  • Be culturally informed

Organizations can create emotional safety in their practice by:

  • Developing policies that:
    • Clearly state the organization’s commitment to trauma-informed care
    • Prioritize choice, involvement, privacy, and confidentiality
  • Promoting awareness and understanding of trauma and its effects across the organization and with each and every staff member
  • Changing the language used to describe clients. For example, instead of seeing the person as sick, view them as affected by an injury
  • Sharing information and power
  • Understanding what trauma and healing means to the client within their cultural context
Portrait of a doctor wearing a face mask in a busy hospital.

Organizational implementation strategies

  • Policies and procedures
  • Trauma-related language in job descriptions and interviews
  • Mechanisms to gather feedback
  • Awareness training for staff and clients
  • Employee benefits and wellness programs

Committing to TIC means building competence among staff and establishing guidelines that ensure the delivery of trauma-informed services. This includes:

  • Recruiting, hiring, and retaining staff
  • Involving people with lived experience in every aspect of service delivery
  • Developing collaboration across units to streamline referral processes

TIC involves reevaluating all care from a trauma-aware lens, which means honouring the following principles: safety, trustworthiness, collaboration, empowerment, attentiveness to cultural and historical issues, peer support, and mutual self-help.

There are several important mechanisms that can help build trauma-informed organizations. Organizational policies can explicitly refer to the importance of trauma awareness. Hiring practices can include job descriptions that refer to trauma-related knowledge and skills. Staff and patient satisfaction surveys can be transparently reported. Staff can receive ongoing training and employee benefits and wellness programs. 

Implementing these trauma-informed strategies will help build expertise and trust.

Diversity, proud and doctors portrait in healthcare service, hospital integrity and teamwork

Leadership implementation strategies

Senior Leadership

  • Walkabouts
  • Town halls
  • Inviting feedback

Managers & supervisors

  • Prioritize team communication: rounds, huddles, and debriefs
  • Support staff following critical incidents
  • Ensure trust and confidentiality
  • Ensure staff are provided time to participate in training

Leadership support is critical in implementing true culture change. Leaders at every level can serve as role models and change makers.

Senior leaders have an important role in establishing organizational culture. They have the authority to send a powerful message as change makers by modelling trauma-informed language in their interactions with staff and clients. Senior leaders can strive to maintain visibility and accessibility. Strategies to accomplish this include regular walkabouts to informally meet and engage with staff and clients, holding town halls to share information, and creating processes that allow staff and patients to provide ongoing feedback.

For managers and supervisors, having clear and frequent team communication is essential. Processes such as team rounds, huddles, and debriefs allow staff to provide input and share ideas for improvements.

“Workplaces and organizations have a responsibility to create a psychologically safe workplace. This includes an environment that promotes trauma-informed principles such as safety and trustworthiness, not just for those receiving services, but also for those providing services.”

(The Trauma-Informed Toolkit, Second Edition, 2013, p. 126)

We hope that this course has introduced you to the core concepts and principles of trauma-informed care. TIC can help staff deliver care that is knowledgeable about trauma and its impacts, while enhancing their own capacity for self-care. 

Trauma-informed care is not the work of a handful of healthcare providers. In order to truly be effective, leaders must commit to its implementation in every aspect of their organizations. Workplaces have a responsibility to create a psychologically safe environment. This includes the application of trauma-informed principles not just for those receiving services, but also for those providing them.

Thank you for taking this course with us.


The engagement of senior leadership is critical to successful implementation of trauma-informed care in any organization:
Physically safe spaces include:
Emotionally safe spaces include:
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