Annie Lewis-O’Connor, PhD, NP, FAAN, director, C.A.R.E. Clinic (Coordinated Approach to Recovery and Empowerment) and senior nurse scientist


Annie Lewis-O’Connor, far left, highlights the importance of trauma-informed care during an event that BWH hosted last year in honor of V-Day, a global movement dedicated to ending violence against women and girls.

“My needs were too much for me or anyone else to handle. I couldn’t see a way out. I sort of gave up. Today I have a team of health care providers that know me. They have given me hope. I am working towards being the best I can be for me and my children, thanks to members of my team that understand and can help me.”

– A trauma survivor

Survivors of trauma often react to traditional models of health care delivery with anxiety because of their past exposures to violence, abuse or traumatic events. As a result, patients often forego seeking care because of the risk of re-traumatization during health care encounters.

As stated by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, “Traumatic experiences can be dehumanizing, shocking or terrifying, singular or multiple compounding events over time, and often include betrayal by a trusted person or institution and a loss of safety” [2]. Using a Universal approach, acknowledges that most patients have experienced a traumatic event/s and ensuring a safe and empathic environment to receive health care services could mitigate poor health outcomes.”

Health care professionals who are more cognizant of the impact that trauma can have on health and who use trauma-informed care, a strengths-focused, patient-centered approach, can help to increase these patient  survivors’ ability to accept health services.

Trauma-informed care (TIC) is an overarching approach that acknowledges the prevalence of current, recent and past trauma; emphasizes the range of effects of trauma on survivors’ physical and mental health; and guides the tone and process of patient care at the individual level, as well as at the organizational level.

Within a trauma-informed framework, care is provided by caregivers who are aware of, and responsive to, the traumas that patients may have experienced. This TIC approach is crucial to the engagement of survivors as active participants in their own care.

In 2012, Partners HealthCare formed a Partners-wide Steering Committee on Trauma-Informed Care composed of inter-professional leaders from across the Partners system. This committee is currently working on the development, evaluation and dissemination of a Trauma-Informed Care Toolkit for use by health care organizations. If you are interested in learning more about the committee, please email

Upcoming Events

A global event to honor V-Day, a movement to raise awareness on violence against women will be held on Feb. 10, noon – 1:30 p.m. in Bornstein and will address sexual assault on college campuses. Visit PikeNotes to learn more.

In addition, the fifth Annual Partners Trauma-Informed Care Conference will be held at McLean Hospital in the fall.