Hannah T. Sherfinski, BS; Paige E. Condit, MD; Samantha S. Williams Al-Kharusy, MD; Megan A. Moreno, MD, MSEd, MPH
Published online July 28, 2021.
Background: Adverse childhood experiences are negative life events occurring in childhood that can have long-term health effects. Many health professionals do not receive formal education surrounding childhood trauma, and few providers screen for adverse childhood experiences.
Objective: This scoping review examines how current literature describes the perceptions, attitudes, and practices of health professionals and trainees regarding childhood trauma, identifies educational opportunities aiming to increase awareness for child trauma, and discusses screening for adverse childhood experiences.
Methods: PubMed, PsycInfo, and Google Scholar were used to find articles. Key search terms included “adverse childhood experiences” or “ACEs,” combined with terms such as “screening implementation,” “Education, Professional” (Medical Subject Headings [MeSH]), “Education, Medical, Graduate” (MeSH), “Curriculum” (MeSH), “Health Knowledge, Attitudes, and Practices” (MeSH), and “Attitude” (MeSH).
Results: A large proportion of providers and trainees are unaware of the effects of adverse childhood experiences. Training opportunities can increase knowledge about adverse childhood experiences and promote trauma-informed care practices. However, the long-term effects of these trainings remain largely unexplored. Barriers such as a lack of time, resources, comfort, or consensus regarding how to ethically screen impede broader efforts to implement systematic screenings for adverse childhood experiences.
Conclusions: Adverse childhood experiences are a public health concern. However, health professionals and trainees are undereducated about their pervasive effects. Further research is needed on how to better educate health professionals about adverse childhood experiences and trauma-informed care. Adverse childhood experiences screenings could promote the early identification of childhood trauma, yet the ethics and effectiveness of screening must be further studied.