Shira Rothberg, LSW, coordinates the Trauma Survivors Network and provides counseling for trauma patients at Inova Trauma Center on Inova Fairfax Medical Campus.
When it comes to surviving and healing from trauma, Shira Rothberg, LSW, understands the value that support provides. As Coordinator of the Trauma Survivors Network (TSN) at Inova, Rothberg provides counseling for trauma patients admitted to the hospital, and leads the TSN, a program that comprises 20 to 25 volunteers who are also trauma survivors.
“The best part of my job is that I get to follow our patients through their recovery process and beyond,” says Rothberg, a licensed social worker. “I have people who have been survivors for years, and to see them thriving, living full lives and giving back through the TSN is like getting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
As a group, the TSN offers peer visits in the hospital, hosts support groups, and educates students, emergency medical services (EMS) personnel and other members of the community about trauma and recovery through presentations. Because of the one-on-one support they provide, peer visits can be more powerful than meetings between staff members and patients.
“Almost a year ago, we had a young man who became a quadriplegic,” she recalls. “When he woke up and understood his injuries, he decided he did not want intervention — he just wanted to die. I had a peer visitor — who was also a quadriplegic, and completely independent and self-sufficient — visit him, and he was able to talk and really relate to how the patient was feeling in that moment. After that conversation, the patient moved forward with intervention and was discharged to rehab. It was amazing to be able to provide exactly what he needed to get through that moment.”
Rothberg also feels strongly about Inova and its impact on the community as a whole, because patients not only receive the very best care when something bad happens, but also the support they need once they leave the hospital.
“We don’t just send them home and say, ‘happy recovery,’” she points out. “We want to make sure they feel supported. I tell my patients that they can call me in a week, in a month or in a year — it doesn’t matter. If they find that they need extra support, that’s what we’re here for. I love that about the TSN, and about Inova as an organization.”
Advice on Avoiding Trauma
There are numerous practical ways you can avoid injury or trauma, but in Shira Rothberg’s experience, the first and best thing you can do is to change the way you perceive trauma.
“Don’t have the mentality of ‘that won’t happen to me,’” offers Rothberg, Coordinator of the Trauma Survivors Network at Inova. “There are so many different choices you can make on a daily basis that might change the trajectory of the day, but it’s just as important to change your mentality if you think you’re invincible, or if you watch the news and think that could never happen to you, because it very well could.”