Spotlight on Julie Campbell, RN, and the importance of trauma-informed caregiving

Intervention Specialist for Victims of Violence

Julie Campbell, RN, has over 20 years of experience in nursing but continues to glean from her patient’s experiences. As a nurse working for victims of violence Julie goes into homes with a “no judgement when you enter the door” approach to treat survivors wherever duty calls. Harriott Home Health Services (HHHS) skilled nurses work with survivors of violence wounded from gunshots, stabbings, and beatings. Their job is to  provide patient-centered wound care in the home under extremely difficult circumstances. 

“In my earlier years as a nurse I never encountered victims like the ones I treat now because in other settings they were invisible to me, violent victim injuries weren’t seen on the floors or being treated in clinics so unless you worked in the emergency room or in intensive care you didn’t experience them as patients”.  HHHS has changed Julie’s nursing practice to now include some of the most vulnerable people living with debilitating physical and mental scaring after surviving violent attacks.

Julie describes her patients (mostly males) who can be of any age (recent patients range from 14 to 41 years), living in urban poverty where violence can be a way of life. She identifies a commonality among them – the lack of knowledge about the impact of trauma in survivorship. “The trauma from violence affects their healing process long after the physical wounds have healed” she said. When asked about their living conditions, Julie expressed that many patients lack safe housing, access to resources, nutrition, and the education to know how to get help. “Some of them are stuck in a lifestyle that is hard to get out of because it’s all they know and some of it is intergenerational”. When Julie pulls up in front of patient’s homes she experiences risky conditions, including that there are dangerous people hanging out on the streets. “Many know me already but those who don’t ask me what I’m doing there and when I tell them I’m a nurse, it’s all good”, she said.

I asked Julie what it is like to care for victims when they start to heal and are confronted with the trauma of it all. “I let them talk, and as wounds heal patients just begin to understand the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as they try to cope with the psychological, they respond to every noise they hear in fear that someone is coming for them”. When asked about mental health services, Julie observes that many patients express their inability to cope with PTSD  – they say “no one tells us about this part”.  Julie shared an observation that family, partners and friends who support patients are also vulnerable so they don’t talk about trauma in the home, and when a patient is vulnerable and living in fear, they aren’t sharing their trauma either.  

“You don’t know what you don’t know,” said Julie, “and that’s why I take the time to educate patients about trauma and encourage them to seek help every chance I get.”

A. Siobhan Thompson reporting for HHHS