What is an example of how an organization has changed after going through a training for trauma-informed systems (TIS)? I was holding this question as Jen Leland from Trauma Transformed introduced a training that all CCI staff would experience at our upcoming retreat. I wondered if Jen could perhaps read my face since she went on to share a small change that one large hospital system decided to test after going through the training and collecting ideas from staff — a change that many leaders felt would accomplish nothing.
The change was that all staff would try to make eye contact and greet people coming into the hospital. Despite widespread skepticism, this small change of people making eye contact led to many changes. Patients found their way to appointments faster, communication between teams at the hospital improved, and employees experienced better collaboration. As Jen shared this example, I felt goosebumps on my arms. It was such a clear example; it also reminded me how much I miss real eye contact in the day-to-day work, and not the virtual experience of looking at each other on a screen (an indication that I need to do more work to find the right hybrid work balance).
We decided to invite all staff to go through the trauma-informed systems training because we had seen how participants in our program, Resilient Beginnings Network, had benefited from the training. For example, after Petaluma Health Center offered the training to staff, it decided to redesign the care team to meet families closer to their home. The health center hired Latina family advocates to do outreach, and they have since seen a big increase in the trust that has been built up among families treated at the health center. The care team is now in a better position to provide the services the community needs. You can read more about their experience here.
All staff at CCI were together for three days last week at an office retreat. One day included the trauma-informed systems training. We learnt about the effect of trauma and stress on our brains and bodies, and on our lives and the lives of people around us. Our fun and engaging trainer, Paula Gonzalez, made two references to the Netflix series Beef. I got curious and watched the first episode over the weekend. It was a perfect way to reflect on the training. In summary, intergenerational trauma is a real thing, and small acts in our daily lives can have big implications. Small acts, such as those in the hospital where staff decided to make eye contact.
My colleague Diana wrote an article called The Journey Toward a Healing Organization two years back. The article describes 10 steps that help propel that journey forward, and I have turned to that article many times when I am unsure about a specific decision or direction. I use the ten steps as a sort of checklist.
I joined the training last week thinking about stress and trauma. I left the training thinking of strengths, compassion, and hope. The next step is for the team to debrief. We may identify things we can do with interventions (big I) or through interactions (small i). I hope one outcome will be more eye contact.
What does a trauma-informed system mean to you? What is one change you have made or want to make to build more resilience?
I wish you a lovely month of May.
President, Center for Care Innovations
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