Holy Name training program helps those caring for Holocaust survivors

Trips to medical facilities can be traumatic experience for them

It is estimated there are 80,000 Holocaust survivors living in the U.S. — many of whom continue to suffer the impact of physical and emotional trauma.

Recent studies, in fact, show Holocaust survivors are at higher risk for developing heart disease, osteoporosis, cancer and overall difficulty in performing day-to-day tasks.

The Russell Berrie Institute for Simulation Learning at Holy Name Medical Center is trying to help.

The institute is now offering an interactive, web-based training course for health care professionals with the aim of improving medical treatment of Holocaust survivors and other victims of trauma using a “Person-Center Trauma-Informed” approach to care.

The new program was made possible through a grant awarded to a national nonprofit called the Blue Card by way of federal funds received from the Jewish Federations of North America Center for Advancing Holocaust Survivor Care. Both organizations are dedicated to helping Holocaust survivors in need.

Holy Name’s Institute for Simulation Learning and the Blue Card partnered to develop a training course that addresses both the physical and mental aspects of trauma through simulated scenarios that help health care professionals (including physicians, nurses and dentists) identify triggers that Holocaust survivors, refugees and veterans may encounter during the course of their care as a result of their experiences.

By using this PCTI model, health care providers learn to promote well-being and avoid retraumatizing their patients.

Cedar Wang, vice president of nursing operations at Holy Name, said cultural competency and sensitivity are a cornerstone of care at the hospital.

“As compassionate medical providers, it is essential that we are aware and educated to avoid unintentional reinjury by instilling a sense of well-being and promoting healing in our patients,” she said.

Masha Pearl, executive director of the Blue Card, said the group was proud to be selected to receive a grant from the JFNA’s Center for Advancing Holocaust Survivor Care.

“For many Holocaust survivors, the prospect of being institutionalized or facing an extended hospital stay means that even a routine visit to a dentist or doctor can cause the trauma they experienced in childhood to be relived,” she said.

“We hope this effort helps to educate health care providers to recognize the specialized needs of survivors, so they can help this dwindling population live their remaining years in dignity.”

Participating in this training module offers medical and dental professionals the opportunity to receive continuing education credits from the American Medical Association or Academy of General Dentistry at completion.