Archive for Sunday, May 2, 2004

Surgeons group trains rural trauma center staff

May 2, 2004

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— Rural trauma centers aren't used to treating multiple patients with life-threatening injuries several times a day, unlike the state's larger hospitals.

Instead of multiple doctors and nurses on staff to manage emergencies, rural centers often have one doctor, one nurse and the emergency medical technicians who brought the patient to the hospital.

But a group of surgeons is working to teach the state's rural trauma centers how to manage their resources.

The American College of Surgeons offers an eight-hour course on state, regional and local trauma systems to help develop an effective rural trauma team.

Via Christi Regional Medical Center in Wichita, which has a Level I trauma center and is working to establish a rural network in Kansas, taught one such class last week.

Care teams from Beloit and Newton, along with 14 observers from around the state, attended the class.

"One of the great values of a class like this is that it stimulates discussion," said Ted Cook, a trauma surgeon from Newton.

Instructor Tom Foley, a surgeon from Marshalltown, Iowa, helped establish a statewide rural trauma network in that state.

He said direct communication between the first responder and the surgeon gives the doctor a head start in getting to the hospital, as well as a heads-up on what the center should expect.

In some rural areas, Foley said, first responders don't let the hospital know ahead of time that they are en route with a patient. Instead, they just show up at the emergency room.

"Should we be calling the trauma surgeon from the scene?" one technician asked.

Foley's answer: "Absolutely, whenever possible."

Kris Hill, director of trauma services at Via Christi, said the course is a good fit for Kansas, which has 125 hospitals but few Level I trauma centers.

Two of the Level I trauma centers are in Wichita, another in Kansas City, Kan.

Foley said rural care teams were constantly challenged to keep the network updated.

"You have to keep working at it all the time," he said, "because people move and change jobs and nothing stays the same for that long."

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