Nursing Assessment & Interventions for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Page reviewed and updated: July 2022

Post-traumatic stress disorder can occur in any individual who has experienced a traumatic event. Signs and symptoms may be difficult to recognize, but as nurses, we can use critical thinking to assess patients at risk. We are positioned to make an impact by identifying patients and advocating for treatment. The resources below are available to help nurses successfully recognize and manage PTSD in patients and ourselves. You’ll also find content related to specific traumatic events that can contribute to PTSD. Make sure you’re familiar with these issues and how they impact the care you provide.

Nursing Assessment for PTSD

Posttraumatic stress disorder can occur after someone experiences or witnesses a traumatic event, such as physical or sexual assault, an accident, war, natural disaster, or unexpected death of a loved one. Feelings of fear, shock, anger, anxiety, and guilt are prolonged and interfere with the ability to function socially, at work, and in relationships. For diagnosis, the person must be experiencing a certain number of symptoms in four specific categories: re-experiencing; avoidance; persistent negative alterations in cognitions and mood; and alterations in arousal and activity.

Four Questions Nurses Can Ask to Predict PTSD 1 Year After a Motor Vehicle Crash
Journal of Trauma Nursing, March/April 2022

Acute Traumatic Stress Screening Can Identify Patients and Their Partners at Risk for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms After a Cardiac Arrest: A Multicenter Prospective Cohort Study
Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing, July/August 2022

NCPD Recognizing Risk and Presence of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Women
The Nurse Practitioner, June 2021

Prevalence of Childhood Maltreatment and Posttraumatic Stress Symptoms Among Male Inmates in Iceland
Journal of Forensic Nursing, April/June 2021

Trauma Identification in the Primary Care Setting and Next Steps
The Nurse Practitioner, October 2020

Depressive Symptom Clusters and Their Relationship With Anxiety and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms in Patients with Cancer: The Use of Latent Class Analysis
Cancer Nursing, September/October 2019

Patient-Reported Psychological Distress After Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection: Evidence for Post-traumatic Stress
Journal of Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation & Prevention, September 2019

Illness Uncertainty and Posttraumatic Stress in Young Adults With Congenital Heart Disease
The Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing, June 2018

Investigating the Connection Between Traumatic Brain Injury and Posttraumatic Stress Symptoms in Adolescents
Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation, April 2018

Some Patients Show ‘Surprisingly High’ Rates of Long-term PTSD
Oncology Times, March 2018

Recognizing Postpartum Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
Nursing, March 2018

Posttraumatic Stress Syndrome: What Is It?
Journal of Trauma Nursing, January/February 2018
 
NCPD The Impact of Event Scale– Revised: A quick measure of a patient's response to trauma
American Journal of Nursing, November 2008

Interventions for PTSD

Treatment of PTSD involves psychotherapy, medication, or both. Learn about the various types of trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapies and medications used as first-line treatments, as well as other medications and supplemental therapies used to augment treatment or help manage specific symptoms.
 
The Effect of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction on Posttraumatic Stress of Mothers with Premature Neonates Admitted to a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit
Holistic Nursing Practice, May/June 2022

Teaching Patients With Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
Nursing Made Incredibly Easy! January/February 2021

Reducing Severity of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Intensive Care Unit Survivors
Dimensions of Critical Care Nursing, November/December 2020

NCPD Use of Stellate Ganglion Block to Treat Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Narrative Review
Topics in Pain Management, November 2021

Of Sound Heart and Mind: A Scoping Review of Risk and Protective Factors for Symptoms of Depression, Anxiety, and Posttraumatic Stress in People With Heart Disease
Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing, September/October 2018

Illness Uncertainty and Posttraumatic Stress in Young Adults With Congenital Heart Disease
Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing, July/August 2018

A Clinical Evidence-Based Approach to Examine the Effects of mTBI and PTSD Symptoms on ANAM Performance in Recently Deployed Active Duty Soldiers: Results From the Warrior Strong Study
Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation, March/April 2018

PTSD and Nurses

Anyone can develop PTSD, including families of victims, emergency personnel and rescue workers, and children. Learn about secondary-traumatic stress and PTSD in nurses, and be able to recognize the symptoms in yourself and your colleagues.

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Nurses During a Pandemic: Implications for Nurse Leaders
JONA: Journal of Nursing Administration, February 2022

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Nurses Caring for Patients with COVID-19
Nursing2021, July 2021

Surviving the Trauma of COVID
Journal of Christian Nursing, April/June 2021

Coping with Moral Distress During COVID-19
Nursing2021, February 2021

Giving Meaning to Resilience During COVID-19
Lippincott NursingCenter, May 2020

Original Research: Exploring the Effects of a Nurse-Initiated Diary Intervention on Post-Critical Care Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
AJN, American Journal of Nursing, May 2020

Factors Affecting Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in South Korean Trauma Nurses
Journal of Trauma Nursing, January/February 2020

NCPD Life After Trauma: A Survey of Level 1 Trauma Center Regarding Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Acute Stress Disorder
Journal of Trauma Nursing, September/October 2019

NCPD Debrief in Emergency Departments to Improve Compassion Fatigue and Promote Resiliency
 Journal of Trauma Nursing, September/October 2017

 
NCPD Secondary Posttraumatic Stress and Nurses' Emotional Responses to Patient's Trauma
Journal of Trauma Nursing, March/April 2017

Gun Violence & PTSD

There have been over 270 mass casualty events in 2017 as a result of gun violence, and the number of persons directly and indirectly affected is immeasurable. What can we, as nurses, do about gun violence?

A Narrative Inquiry Into the Experience of Being a Victim of Gun Violence
Journal of Trauma Nursing, November/December 2018

Responding to Mass Shootings: Are Hospitals - and Nurses - Fully Prepared?
AJN, American Journal of Nursing, September 2018

Plunging Forward in the Aftermath of the Las Vegas Tragedy
Lippincott NursingCenter, October 2017

Domestic Violence & PTSD

As with other traumatic events, victims and witnesses of domestic violence can suffer lasting effects and develop PTSD. Learn about screening programs, risk factors, approaching the topic, and appropriate interventions. 

Neural Correlates of Traumatic Brain Injury in Women Survivors of Intimate Partner Violence: A Structural and Functional Connectivity Neuroimaging Study
Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation, January/February 2022

A Nurse's Guide to Intimate Partner Violence
Nursing Made Incredibly Easy! March/April 2021

Intimate Partner Violence
AJN, American Journal of Nursing, April 2020

NCPD A Case of Nonfatal Strangulation Associated with Intimate Partner Violence
Advanced Emergency Nursing Journal, July/September 2020

NCPD The CARE Approach: Supporting Women Who Disclose Intimate Partner Violence
Nursing Made Incredibly Easy! September/October 2019

Screening Women for Intimate Partner Violence: Creating Proper Practice Habits
The Nurse Practitioner, May 2018
 
NCPD Intimate Partner Violence in Rural U.S. Areas: What Every Nurse Should Know 
AJN, American Journal of Nursing, May 2014

Veterans & PTSD

PTSD is a significant mental health disorder among veterans. Review the relevance of PTSD in the veteran population along with known barriers to care, common concomitant conditions, evidence-based treatment options, and the role of the nurse in identifying and treating veterans with PTSD.

Implementation of a Mobile Technology-Supported Diaphragmatic Breathing Intervention in Military mTBI with PTSD
Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation, May/June 2022

Associations Among PTSD and Postconcussive Symptoms in the Long-Term Impact of Military-Relevant Brain Injury Consortium-Chronic Effects of Neurotrauma Consortium Prospective, Longitudinal Study Cohort
Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation, November, December 2021
 
Research Letter: PTSD Symptom Severity and Multiple Traumatic Brain Injuries Are Associated with Elevated Memory Complaints in Veterans with Histories of Mild TBI
Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation, November/December 2021

Cognition and Other Predictors of Functional Disability Among Veterans with Mild Traumatic Brain Injury and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
The Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation, January/Febuary 2021

Medical Surgical Nurse Self-perceived Competency in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder/Substance Use Disorder Veteran Care in a Non-Veterans Health Administration Setting
JONA: The Journal of Nursing Administration, April 2020

Brain Volume in Veterans: Relationship to Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Mild Traumatic Brain Injury
Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation, July/August 2020

A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis on PTSD Following TBI Among Military/Veteran and Civilian Populations
Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation, January/February 2020

Differences in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Depression and Attribution of Symptoms in Service Members With Combat Versus Noncombat Mild Traumatic Brain Injury
Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation, January/February 2020

Cognitive Rehabilitation With Mobile Technology and Social Support for Veterans With TBI and PTSD: A Randomized Clinical Trial
Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation, January/February 2019

Comorbid Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury: Generalization of Prolonged-Exposure PTSD Treatment Outcomes to Postconcussive Symptoms, Cognition, and Self-Efficacy in Veterans and Active Duty Service Members
Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation, March/April 2018

NCPD Primary Care Providers and Screenings for Military Service and PTSD
AJN, American Journal of Nursing, November 2017

NCPD Veteran Women: Mental Health-Related Consequences of Military Service: A Review of Recent Research and its Relevance for Nurses in All Settings
AJN, American Journal of Nursing, November 2016
 
MORE PTSD READING & RESOURCES FOR NURSES
American Red Cross
PTSD Alliance
National Institute of Mental Health