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Processing trauma: 5 suggestions

By: Julie Cullen

By Julie Cullen, Managing Editor, American Nurse Today

How can nurses and other healthcare professionals support their patients in the aftermath of a national tragedy? An individual might not be directly involved in a natural disaster that takes many lives and destroys homes, but it can create anxiety and worry. And even if someone isn’t a victim of a mass shooting, he or she might still be fearful.

When you encounter patients who are feeling helpless after an event like the shootings in El Paso and Dayton, consider sharing these suggestions.

Build resiliency (but give yourself time)

Jonathan Vicksburg, a family therapist in Los Angeles, recommends trying to shift from replaying the event in your mind to finding something good that can come out of it. This can’t happen immediately, so give yourself time to make the shift.

Lean on others

Robin Gurwitch, a psychologist and child trauma expert at Duke University Medical Center, suggests asking questions and validating others’ feelings. This can be especially important for children who may be confused by violent events. Peer groups also can help, by providing safe places where people with similar experiences and outlooks can support each other and work together toward common goals.

Find time for enjoyment

Make self-care part of your routine. Whether it’s taking a walk, journaling, cooking…or just a fun activity…allow time every day for enjoyment and positive thoughts.


Taking a few moments during the day to be in the moment can help you change your feelings, says Amani Surges Martorella, a clinical social worker at Johns Hopkins University.

Get involved

Finding opportunities to make meaning out of a tragic event can help you heal and can be a positive force in the world.


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