Trauma-informed Care in the NICU – Implications for Parents and Staff

Mary Coughlin McNeil


“The expectation that we can be immersed in suffering and loss daily and not be touched by it is as unrealistic as expecting to be able to walk on water without getting wet. This sort of denial is no small matter”1

The concept of trauma and traumatic stress emerged in the field of mental health over forty years ago and is a widespread public health concern.  The paradigm of trauma-informed care acknowledges that trauma and traumatic stress overwhelm an individual’s ability to cope while simultaneously changing their biology with both short term and lifelong implications for health and wellbeing. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) was the first to implement a trauma-informed care framework which “(1) realizes the widespread impact of trauma; (2) recognizes the signs and symptoms of trauma in clients, families, staff, and others; (3) responds by fully integrating knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures, and practices; and (4) actively seeks to resist re-traumatization.”2

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