Caring for the Perpetrators of Trauma

The Schwartz Center Educational Rounds highlight the human side of clinical care by focusing on how providers can sustain their compassion. Sometimes, though, a clinician can find it difficult to muster compassion for a patient. In the rounds on February 19, 2014, two students and an alumna described situations where they had to confront the limits of their ability to care.

Chris Carter, PsyD, Director of Behavior Medicine at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, moderated the discussion in which Leigh Pescatore (SON ’13), Melissa Pedraza (DPT ’15), and Peggy Lin (DPT ’15) described cases from their clinical education.

Melissa recounted working with patients at a VA hospital who were both victims and perpetrators of trauma. Peggy told about a patient recovering from a stroke who continued to smoke and caused other patients to miss their treatments. Leigh provided an example from her rotation in a super max prison when she was confronted with having to provide care to a renowned criminal.

In all these cases, the students reflected on the prejudgments they made about patients and how the reality sometimes differed once they met them. Understanding their own biases and the fuller context for a patient’s behavior helped the students summon the compassion needed to care for people who have caused harm.

Peter Cahn

Role: Associate Provost for Academic Affairs, and Interim Director and Professor in the Center for Interprofessional Studies and Innovation.

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Posted in Nursing, Physical Therapy, Schwartz Center Educational Rounds

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