Psychosocial Practice in the Changing Context of the Larger Burns Survivor – Maximising psychosocial recovery through reintegrating towards a new reality

Ms Rochelle Kurmis1, Ms Jenny Edge1, Ms Madeline Rowell1, Ms Kathryn Heath1, Prof. John E. Greenwood1

1Royal Adelaide Hospital, Adult Burns Service, Adelaide, Australia


Severe burns are a traumatic experience with recovery not only being physical, but psychosocial. The challenge for the large burn injury survivor is one of reintegrating a new identity and sense of place from their previous social environment.

After World War II, traumatised soldiers were advised to not mention their ordeal, and families advised to ‘change the subject’ if the topic arose, resulting in high levels of post-traumatic stress disorder and other negative psychological outcomes. Understanding trauma survival and response has changed considerably since then and applies to all types of trauma. It is now recognised that all involved with care of the burns survivor can support psychosocial recovery towards integration back to a new ‘normal’.

The aim of this study is to identify the various ways to support a patient towards hope for a future beyond the hospital room, and a belief that they can reintegrate towards a social world with a reformed identity.

A literature review of psychosocial theory in the context of its application to support burns survivors was conducted. This demonstrated that from the initial admission when working with families in crisis, throughout the subsequent phases of recovery for survivors, there are multiple approaches and understandings that can support the recovery process. Phases of recovery from admission through to rehabilitation include critical care, grief, anger, loss and adjustment.

A summary of identified theories and examples of the application of trauma-informed principles into the care of severe burns survivors on our unit will be presented


Jenny Edge is the Social Worker for the Adult Burns Service at the RAH. With previous experience with wound care as a nurse, she found her passion was for assisting people with their psychosocial as well as their physical wellbeing, leading her to a change in career. Jenny has bought this passion and experience with her to the RAH burns team.

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