Racial Trauma and Its Impact on Patients

 In Nurses Weekly

Jamila Holcomb, PhD, LMFT, a faculty member at Florida State University and a Relias contributor, explains what nurses need to know about racial trauma in this interview. Holcomb teaches courses on parenting, adolescent development and public policy related to children and families. She also is a licensed marriage and family therapist specializing in individual, family and trauma counseling.

Q: What is racial trauma and trauma-informed care?

A: Racial trauma is the physical, emotional, and psychological pain associated with experiencing or witnessing racism. The act of witnessing is key. Pain can come from watching someone being victimized as a result of racism. Trauma-informed care describes care guided by the evidence surrounding racial trauma.

Q: How does it affect treatment or outcomes?

A: Because of racism and discrimination, we know that providers will often give less quality care to people of color. Research says Black individuals are less likely to receive medical treatment when they’re in need. They are also less likely to receive pain medication or are given less pain medication based on biases. These are implicit biases that are going to impact the nursing profession and quality of care. Also, nurses who are not aware of racial trauma might minimize or dismiss a patients’ symptoms as not real or as being exaggerated.

We do see racism linked to outcomes in terms of high death rates. For instance, Black moms are dying at a higher rate than any other race in the months before and after giving birth.

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