Developing a hospital environment conducive to healing

In creating a culture of care within the NICU, staff is saddled with a wide array of responsibilities that more often than not overlap with those of a psychologist or social worker. Nurses, doctors, NPs, and even line staff are faced with families who by way of their own crises (and through no fault of their own) can be erratic, anxious, doubting, irritable, or unwilling to take medical advice. Staff can be blamed for things beyond their control, be forced to cope with personality clashes with their clients, and in actuality hold the responsibility for many tiny humans in their hands, often for 12 hours a day, multiple days a week. One mistake can have tragic results.

In addition to all of this, staff themselves are exposed to a fairly regular onslaught of crisis and trauma in witnessing their tiny patients fight for their lives. What's known as "vicarious trauma" is associated with the development of PTSD, anxiety, and depression.

In the fast-paced atmosphere of the NICU, it can be challenging to integrate practices that lessen conflict between staff and patients, improve communication, and heal vicarious trauma. The NICU Healing program offers an eight hour training for NICU staff and peer support groups focusing on trauma-informed care and integrating elements for the healing of vicarious trauma into the hospital culture.

Nicu staff, in integrating trauma-informed care at their nicu, can

  • Employ evidence-based methods of communicating with patients
  • Create a hospital environment conducive to healing for NICU families (both physically and emotionally)
  • Understand trauma and how that affects the psychology of NICU parents
  • Prevent the unintentional retraumatization of NICU parents
  • Understand the importance of personal boundaries in working with families on an intimate level
  • Improve outcomes for NICU babies by virtue of having stronger relationships with NICU parents, which results in more adherence to the direction of medical staff and encourages the abilities of families to continue with the special care of their infants at home
  • Learn about vicarious trauma, how it operates and why it's important to address it in a deliberate way
  • Identify "burnout", and employ definitive strategies for how to cope when burnout happens

For more information about NICU Healing's trauma-informed staff training program, please contact Kara Wahlin at or call (650)308-4188 for a free one hour consultation.