McFadden presents ‘Trauma Informed Care’ at annual conference

Oct 17, 2022 | Alumni, Applied and Natural Sciences, Faculty/Staff, General News

Dr. Patti McFadden, a graduate of Louisiana Tech’s Division of Nursing in 1995, says she’s actually been a nurse since kindergarten but has “only been licensed for 27 years.” McFadden, who is an RN and Associate Professor of Nursing at Tech, comes by the passion for her profession honestly.

“My grandmother died of cancer when I was 5,” McFadden, holder of the University’s Virginia Pennington Professorship, said. “I remember women in white coming in to feed her and wash her hair.”

That experience left an impression, one that drove her not only to become a nurse, but also to help grow an understanding among physicians and victims of the benefits of Trauma Informed Care. She is one of only five nurses in 10 area parishes who volunteer as parts of a team who help, in this specific way, victims of trauma.

“It’s definitely a calling,” McFadden, a forensic nurse examiner since 2005, said. “Most of us think of trauma as witnessing a homicide, being involved in a shooting, a car wreck. But trauma can come from anything, like abuse, neglect, a natural disaster, anything that a person ‘takes on,’ that they struggle with and try to adapt to. One of our jobs is to explain and define that.”

The purpose of trauma informed care education is to better care for both the patient with trauma and the physician the patient sees.

“A patient comes into a family medical practice and discusses with their doctor that they’ve had trauma in the past,” McFadden said. “The doctor gives them a phone number for mental services, but those offices are often not well-funded. So the family physician ends up taking on the role of counselor. With trauma informed care, the nurse, the counselor, the physician, the nurse practitioner can practice holistic, patient-centered care.

“Plus it’s about how to take care of ourselves. A lot of health care providers take on trauma themselves, ‘vicarious trauma.’ Every time someone tells you a story, you take that on. You have a patient who tells you they had gas poured on them and they were burned when they were a child. Or they were a victim of elder child abuse. We teach physicians how to deal with that too.”

What sounds like common medical sense has, until the past 20 years or so, not been so common. This summer, McFadden accepted an invitation to attend the American Academy of Family Physicians annual conference for Family Medical Residents and Students in Kansas City, Missouri, and be part of a panel discussion titled “Trauma Informed Care: An Invaluable Addition of the Family Physician’s Clinical Arsenal.”

McFadden’s mentor and longtime friend Dr. Teri O’Neal, Associate Professor of Clinical Family Medicine and Program Director at LSUHSC Shreveport/Monroe Family Medicine Residency in Monroe, attends the conference annually and said this was the first time the subject of Trauma Informed Care had been addressed. She asked McFadden to go so she could share her experience in caring for victims of violence.

“We were the only panel with no ‘family’ doctors: Dr. O’Neal and me, a first-responder, a paramedic, and a mental health counselor. We presented as a panel how to take care of a patient from the time of trauma until they see their family physician.”

The 90-minutes presentation “flew by,” McFadden said, and there were lots of questions afterward. The next morning’s session — despite beginning at 8 and following a conference party the night before — was very well attended because word had spread.

“I was worried what our audience would be like; I thought they’d want ‘the good stuff’ like how to deal with a broken arm or a cold,” McFadden said. “But we had 111 attend our two sessions out of 1,100 at a conference where people could choose the panel they wanted to attend.”

The panel did role-play skits, presented case studies, and explained how to deal with different types of patients and families.

“We talked everything through with the audience,” she said. “A lot of this is about stepping outside of the boundaries of medicine and embracing other disciplines to better care for our patients.

Doctors see so many patients in a day. But if they have a sense of a patient’s trauma, they can say, ‘What can we do to help you with that today? If I get a number for you and a follow-up appointment, will that improve things for you today?’ If they want to talk, we don’t want the doctor to deflect it. We want the doctor to know how to access resources to aid the patient.”

Since McFadden and the team embraced trauma informed care as Forensic Nurse Examiners for the Ouachita Parish Coroner’s Office in 2005, “there’s been a tremendous change in culture,” she said. “Now law enforcement in Ouachita Parish don’t (question trauma victims) until they see us. We work together. Now our team is first responders, emergency staff , counseling centers, law enforcement, and the district attorneys offices. What we are teaching is how to handle people in traumatic events, how to care for them to improve their chances of quality health outcomes in the long term.

“We just want the public to know that we exist,” she said, “that we’re here to help them.”

Every Tech nursing student graduates with a full understanding of trauma informed care — but with a lot more than that, McFadden said.

“We (Tech nursing faculty) get invited to baby showers and weddings (of Tech nursing graduates) all the time,” she said. “I tell our students that they are not a number. We are family. Tech Nursing is about more than ‘creating’ a graduate. We’re creating a product here that is amazing, and our faculty has a lot to do with that. We put out a graduate — and a really good nurse.”