Current state of screening high-ACE youth and emerging adults in primary care

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Abstract

Background and purpose:

Trauma comes in many forms, including interpersonal, community, and institutional trauma. The adverse childhood event (ACE) studies demonstrated that adverse experiences in childhood can have a profound, cumulative impact on the course of health and development over a lifetime. It is critical for healthcare providers, such as nurse practitioners (NPs), working in primary care to screen adolescents and emerging adults for a history of ACEs and trauma. A review of current assessment tools used in assessing this population in health settings is needed to determine how screening for ACEs is being performed.

Conclusions:

Clinically efficient tools for screening and assessment of high-ACE youth in primary care settings are lacking. Developing a process to assess ACEs, risk behaviors, and physical and mental health status that is efficient to use during a time limited clinical visit is an important step in providing holistic care to a challenging population.

Implications for practice:

Primary care NPs are in the perfect position to implement assessments of ACEs through trauma-informed nursing care. ACE assessment in clinical practice will provide vital information to guide the development of tailored interventions for reducing risk behaviors and mitigate the long-term impacts of ACEs.

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