UMSN students carry out hands-on research on trauma-informed care

University of Michigan School of Nursing (UMSN) students are working on a unique research project: analyzing how trauma-informed care is taught at the School of Nursing in clinical and didactic settings.

One of the projects under the research initiative CASCAID which aims to comprehensively address trauma-informed care in nursing, the task is interviewing faculty about how students are prepared to handle trauma in clinic and in the classroom, and for ideas on how to better prepare them. Their goal is to create tools to incorporate trauma-informed care in nursing education.

Student members of the research team are: Courtney Buckley, BSN student; Emily Chapin, DNP student; Katrina Coley, BSN student; Liz Coolidge, BSN student; Megan Harris, DNP student; Eliza Singer, MSN student; and Zeineb Sulmane, BSN student. Faculty member Elizabeth Kuzma, DNP, FNP-BC, and research coordinator Lindsay Cannon, MPH, MSW, manage the group.

Trauma-informed care seeks to recognize and address the lingering effects of past or on-going traumatic experiences in individuals’ lives that lead to poor health or risky behaviors. Trauma-informed care should support biobehavioral health as well as mental health, CASCAID faculty co-lead Julia Seng, Ph.D., CNM, FAAN, believes. 

Students learn valuable research skills in seeing the project through from beginning to end. By developing the interview guide and recruiting participants, they hone their judgment for qualitative research. The students are currently conducting interviews, and then will transcribe, code, and analyze the data.

They will also conduct focus group discussions once pilot curricular materials for trauma-informed care are created by the CASCAID team. 

Cannon coaches the students through topics such as consent, confidentiality, and deidentification. She also helps them find their own style as an interviewer. Practice interviews help them develop confidence, and to understand the ways in which a research interview is distinct from a conversation.

“I help them understand how to treat the person as an expert and engage their knowledge. As researchers, this helps us from inserting our own preconceived notions into the data. It also helps the students work out their nerves so they can go into an interview with confidence,” Cannon explained.

Students were selected based on interest in topic, and in research in general, rather than based on previous experience or skills.

“We wanted to give students who hadn’t done research a chance, and we cared more about the passion that they would bring to the project,” Cannon said.

Over the three months that Cannon has been working with the students, she has seen their curiosity emerge. 

"They are questioning why we do things, engaging with the process," she said. 

Advanced students recognize the need for trauma-based care from clinical experiences. 

“We encounter trauma a lot clinically but we don’t know what to do with it. It’s like an itch you can’t scratch,” Emily Chapin, a DNP student with a clinical specialty in primary care, said.

“We need to tailor programs and create resources for teens with a history of adverse childhood experiences,” Chapin believes.

In addition to engaging students in active research, the CASCAID research group aims to provide opportunities for public engagement in the fall through an invited speaker, a film screening, and a panel discussion.