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Thinking ‘Beyond the Hospital’ for Black Men Recovering from Traumatic Injury

Research from Penn Nursing and Penn Medicine found that where these patients live and return post-hospitalization affects whether they’ll experience symptoms of depression or PTSD as they heal.

November 07, 2022
Penn Nursing's Therese Richmond (left) and recent PhD graduate Marta Bruce.
Penn Nursing’s Therese Richmond (left) and recent PhD graduate Marta Bruce.

When someone arrives at a hospital with a severe injury, the law guarantees that person will receive care. But how will recovery progress when it’s time for that person to go home?

“How often, when we discharge patients, do we think about the environment they’re going back into and take that into consideration?” says Therese Richmond, PhD, the Andrea B. Laporte Professor of Nursing and associate dean for research and innovation at Penn Nursing. “We need to start thinking beyond the hospital doors.”

For research recently published in the Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities, Richmond, recent Penn Ph.D. graduate Marta Bruce, and colleagues from Penn Nursing and the Perelman School of Medicine looked at how environmental factors might affect the healing process for Black men who had suffered traumatic injuries.

Following such individuals for up to four months post-discharge, they found that where these people lived affected how likely they were to experience depression or PTSD as they recovered. What’s more, factors like a neighborhood’s crime rate, disconnectedness, disadvantage, and racial and ethnic makeup influenced symptom severity.

“A lot of research has focused on finding explanations for poor health outcomes in the individual, at the genetic or molecular level,” says Bruce, who, until recently, worked as an intensive care nurse at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. “We’re trying to move beyond that. People live complex lives, and we think their health outcomes can be better explained by where they live and the conditions they’re exposed to.”

This work is the next step in a study funded by the National Institutes of Health that involved more than 600 Black men who had been seriously injured, either intentionally or accidentally. This particular study included 451 adult Black males residing in Philadelphia who were hospitalized for traumatic injury.

This is an excerpt from a longer story which was first published in Penn Today. It was written by Michele Berger, senior science news officer in University Communications.

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