Trauma-Informed Student-Volunteer Toolkit

Publication Date

Winter 3-9-2022

Item Type


Executive Summary

The facility we worked with is a safe place for community members to come to cope and recover from mental illnesses, homelessness, and addiction. They have two locations in the greater Seattle area, including SoDo and South Lake Union. Their primary goal is to facilitate relationships and connectedness between community members and facility volunteers and staff. However, COVID-19 has been a barrier due to the absence of in-person volunteers and nursing students (Recovery Café). The goal of our project is to create a trauma-informed toolkit for new student volunteers at the facility. This toolkit will include sections such as AIDET, a general overview of trauma-informed care, conversation dos/don'ts, a therapeutic communication model, suicide risk protocol, guide of professionalism, and HIPAA guidelines.


A recent report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), found that 258,000 persons suffer with a substance use disorder and 22.1 percent suffer with alcohol abuse within Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue area (SAMHSA, n.d.). The purpose of our project was to provide a streamlined way for student volunteers to equip themselves with tools to be successful. Our decision to focus on these aspects was influenced by the population of individuals that sought support from this facility. We used evidence-based journals, articles, and organizations to support the information in the packet, along with information already laid out by the facility. This volunteer packet will be presented to the facility and will be available as a Word document to print as needed and for future edits.

Activities with Rationale

We provided evidence-based practice (EBP) resources that show where we got our information. We included topics that are clearly laid out to give student volunteers a holistic view of how to interact with this vulnerable population. The first topic we included was how to introduce oneself in a professional manner. This can be done by using the acronym AIDET, which stands for acknowledge, introduce, duration, explanation, and thanks. This is a simple formula that volunteers can use to start a conversation with the members of the program. We then included information on trauma-informed care. By including this topic, volunteers can be equipped with some basic tools for interacting with this population. Trauma-informed care provides a different approach to care by acknowledging how trauma has shaped a person’s current health and state (Center for Health Strategies, n.d.). We also included a resource for proper conversation and how to converse in a therapeutic manner. This was created to guide students in how to maintain their safety with confidentiality and what to do in case of unpredictable situations.

Also provided in our toolkit is a section on suicide; the risk factors, signs, and protocol for if a member of the facility exhibits suicidality. The population that they serve, houses many risk factors for suicide. Lee et al., 2017 “reported that participants who had both a mental health disorder and a substance abuse issue showed higher rates of suicide attempt compared to participants who had only a mental health disorder or only a substance abuse issue”. The data from their 2019-2020 Annual Report provides the percentages of their members experiencing homelessness, mental health struggles, and substance use disorders. It was reported that “78% [are] in recovery for substance use disorder, 58% [are] in recovery for mental health challenges, 43% [are] in recovery for both mental health challenges and substance use disorders, and 69% [are] experiencing homelessness” (Recovery Café). This data shows how this population of people is at a high risk of suicide. Since our resource is made for nursing students, we thought it was important to also include a section on professionalism. Students who volunteer at the facility get a glimpse into what working as a community or public health nurse looks like. This section provides direction for professional attire and behaviors. The final section of our packet covers HIPAA guidelines. This is an important section to include because although this is not a hospital or clinic setting, the members and guests of the facility are there for treatment, connection and healing, and volunteers need to treat them with the same respect and privacy as a patient in the hospital.


Our toolkit helps guide volunteers in how to have therapeutic conversations with patients who have suffered different traumas. The desired outcome was met by finalizing the toolkit and preparing to give it to our liaison. We then took our trauma informed toolkit and gave it to our liaison. This outcome was partially met because we delivered the toolkit to them, but because of COVID-19 restrictions, they are not currently taking new volunteers. When volunteers are active again, they will have a new and improved guide for students. We also successfully addressed the populations of the facility by touring the site and meeting with our liaison to ask who they serve. We found that all members have experienced some sort of trauma in their life. Lastly, we did create a toolkit for volunteers but as said earlier because of COVID-19 student volunteers are not actively volunteering. This goal was met for setting up the facility for success for future volunteer but not met for any current volunteers.


Overall, we paid a visit to our facility and discovered that they require a student volunteer handbook. As a result, we developed a trauma-informed toolkit. Our manual is meant to help them better grasp how to navigate and interact with this specific population. This material will inform and train them to make the most of their volunteer experience while also protecting and respecting the facility’s members. Moreover, yes, our goals were met as we were able to successfully create a trauma informed toolkit after we identified their need for a student volunteer toolkit. COVID-19 and the regulations were unquestionably a major roadblock for us. We wished to spend more time at the facility and interact with the community members. As for future projects related to the work we’ve done this quarter they could potentially create a brief informative toolkit for volunteers from the general population.  


Center for Healthcare Strategies. (n.d.). What is trauma-informed care.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). Health insurance portability and accountability act of 1996 (HIPAA). Public Health Professionals Gateway. https://www.cdc.gov/phlp/publications/topic/hipaa.html

HIPAA Journal. (2021). How employees can help prevent HIPAA violations. Practical HIPAA. https://www.hipaajournal.com/employees-prevent-hipaa-violations/

Lee, K. H., Jun, J. S., Kim, Y. J., Roh, S., Moon, S. S., Bukonda, N., & Hines, L. (2017). Mental health, substance abuse, and suicide among homeless adults. Journal of Evidence-Informed Social Work, 14(4), 229-242. https://doi.org/10.1080/23761407.2017.1316221

Organization Development and Training (2013) Patient first every patient, every time [PowerPoint slides]. University of Washington. https://blogs.uw.edu/hmctrav/files/2013/05/AIDET-Presentation.pdf

Recovery Cafe - Seattle, Washington. (2021, January 29). Recovery Café. https://recoverycafe.org/

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (n.d.). National survey on drug

use and health. https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUHMetro


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