Harlan’s emergency responders and medical providers are upgrading their skills and procedures to improve the care provided to local people suffering physical trauma.
Mock trauma exercises are held to assess the progress made as the community’s first response system continues to develop its skills. The most recent of those drills were held in January and April. State certification is expected to occur sometime during the summer months.
“We are developing a rural trauma team, working through the staff and facilities here at Harlan ARH Hospital, to apply for Level Four state trauma certification,” said Sheba Hensley, RN, nurse manager of the hospital’s emergency department.
The team also includes local ambulance services Harlan EMS, Life Care and Air Evac-Lifeteam all working to help make this possible, she added.
“The first thing that needed to happen was extensive education and training are required in order to meet the state’s qualifications,” Hensley said, so the team worked together to provide those opportunities for everyone involved.
The state’s standards were set over three years ago when the Kentucky Department for Public Health established the Kentucky Trauma Care System following legislation originally signed in 2008.
The current state system for trauma care began at that time with only 10 designated hospitals. Since then, an additional eight hospitals have met the qualifications to join the system. Many others are currently in different stages of development.
At the local hospital, nursing supervisors and staff from all units have undergone the required training activities in order for the hospital to meet the standards. Staff from the local ambulance services have been involved as both students and trainers.
The hospital’s emergency room staff, nursing supervisors, intensive care nurses, and some other support staff have participated in the training. Air-Evac Lifeteam, the local air ambulance service company, has been a major participant, contributing significant expertise to the training and overall preparations, Hensley said.
“It is our pleasure to collaborate with ARH facilities in teaching (the trauma nursing core course),” said Josh Whitfield, RN, an Air-Evac flight nurse. “Mainly hosted at ARH in Harlan and Middlesboro, we have also been able to offer this course, delivering the most up-to-date care for our trauma patients, to surrounding hospitals.
“We look forward to continuing the teamwork and progress with ARH, ensuring that our communities are getting the best care we can possibly provide,” he added.
People in rural communities are particularly vulnerable to the sudden and unexpected life changing events involved in trauma care, Hensley said.
In rural settings, trauma injuries have been shown to be more lethal than similar injuries in more urban environments, she added.
“Studies show that few people realize how rural trauma care is different. While only 25 percent of America’s population lives in rural regions, more than 60 percent of the trauma deaths in the country occur in these more remote areas,” Hensley said, “and that two of the major reasons why are the isolation of the trauma scene and a relative lack of experience dealing with the traumatized patient.”
Rural trauma situations are also unique in that there are much more limited resources available to deal with these patients quickly.
“The rural trauma team must know how to make optimal use of its limited resources,” Hensley noted. “That is part of what the training prepares us for.
“The ultimate goal is to be prepared to stabilize any life-threatening injury, transfer the trauma patient as soon as possible to definitive care, and therefore increase the patient’s chances of survival,” she added.