All posts by TheTraumaPro

Trauma Performance Improvement: How Often Should Your Committees Meet?

For those of you who are trauma performance aficionados, check out the newest posts on my PI site TraumaMedEd.com. There is a post for each of your required trauma program committees:

How Often Should My Multidisciplinary Trauma PI Committee Meet?

and

How Often Should My Trauma Operations Committee Meet?

And if you are interested in receiving email notices when new PI-related posts are available, please subscribe by clicking here!

The Eleventh Law Of Trauma

Here’s the last one… for now.

If you have followed this blog for any period of time, you are aware of the skepticism I bring to bear when I am reading new material or learning of new ideas. Why is this? Because it is very difficult in this day and age to ascertain the veracity of anything we see, hear, or read.

This is not new compared to, say, a hundred years ago. The media were a bit different, but the underlying issues were the same. There have always been two major factors at play: information overload and the biases built into our human brain operating system.

There is a huge body of new information in every field that is being produced every year. Given the pressures that most researchers are under to publish or perish, a huge number of papers are sent to journals for review. Unfortunately, this leads to a huge number of publications that are of lower quality.

This also contributes to another recognized phenomenon, the half-life of facts. Think about all the things you learned during your training that are no longer believed to be true. Stress causes ulcers. Steroids are good in head injury. There is a definite decay curve for the old facts that occurs as new knowledge is acquired.

So we have a huge amount of potential junk to sort through to figure out what cellular mechanisms are correct or which medications work for a disease. And then we run into our own operating system problems.

All humans have our own innate beliefs that are shaped by experience and all the information we’ve consumed over the years. And we are genetically programmed to do this:
Learn something new  —>  believe it  —>  verify it

And many of us never get to the verify stage because another operating system issue, confirmation bias, takes over. If we learn something that confirms an existing belief, we are much more likely to believe and much less likely to verify. If we learn something that opposes our belief, we still want to believe what we already do and find every flaw in the new data that might refute it.

So here is my eleventh law of trauma:

“Don’t believe anything you learn, especially if it supports what you already believe”

Bottom line: If you read or hear something new, first examine the source. Is it legitimate and reliable? Where did it get the info? Then check out that source. Critically evaluate it, even if it already supports what you believe. Always treat new information, especially if you think it’s right, as an opportunity to learn something new. Sometimes you will find real gems in the things you thought were wrong, and real crap in the things you believed to be right!

It’s time to flip the algorithm to:
Learn something new  —>  verify it  —>  believe it

The Tenth Law Of Trauma

Several years ago, I ran a series of posts on my Laws of Trauma. I assembled them into  newsletter that contained all nine that existed at the time. If you’d like to download it, just click this link.

I’ve  been struck by another pattern, and I think it’s about time to add the tenth law. Weirdly enough, it was inspired by Dancing With The Stars. You’ll see what I mean.

Here is the Tenth Law of Trauma:

In trauma, it generally takes two to tango

So what does this mean? When dealing with injury, there are a few broad quantitative categories.

  • Single person mechanism. This is one extreme. Common examples would be the elderly fall, a single vehicle car crash, or a self-inflicted stab or gunshot. There is a single “point of failure” that only the individual involved can manage, but for various reasons they do not or cannot. This law does not apply.
  • Multiple person mechanism. This is the other extreme, and thankfully is not seen very often at all. Examples are a tour bus crash, house explosion, or mass casualty event. Once again, those involved usually have little ability to recognize or avoid the imminent event, and the tenth law is null and void.
  • Two person mechanism. This one is very common, and is exemplified by the two car crash, pedestrian struck, or the various flavors of assault. And this is the one that the tenth law applies to.

When two people are involved in an event that leads to traumatic injury, there is usually (but certainly not always) a set of checks and balances that is present. And frequently there is at least one opportunity to avoid the event.

In the case of a two vehicle crash, one driver may have “gone off the deep end” and ignored the usual traffic laws for whatever reason. But the second driver usually has an opportunity to recognize this and change their behavior in order to avoid the situation. However, if they are distracted, impaired, or making assumptions about how other driver behave they can still get into trouble. Thus, it takes two.

What about the pedestrian struck? Likewise, the driver or the pedestrian may have done something nonstandard. Wear dark clothes at night. Glance at their phone while driving. Look at their passenger a bit too long while having a conversation. Once again, the other participant may have an opportunity to see the result of this unexpected behavior and jump or swerve out of the way.

Interpersonal violence it a bit more tricky. Sure, one of the potential participants may get wind that something is up and try to avoid or defuse the situation. But not always. And this situation is heavily charged with emotion and social pressures and is much more difficult to change or avoid.

Bottom line: Many, but certainly not all,  “two-person” mechanisms of injury are avoidable if both of the individuals involved are mentally present and attentive to their surroundings. Look at your own patient population and see how often this applies. You may be surprised!

Ninth Law Of Trauma

Okay, here’s another one! But it’s a doozy. It’s the most important one I live by. It ensures that you don’t get bogged down by habit, custom, dogma, ignorance, or just plain laziness.

Question everything!

If someone ever says, “but that’s the way I/we always do it,” or “that’s what the policy says,” or even “I read a good paper/chapter on this,” take it with a really big grain of salt. Or a salt lick (if you know what that is; otherwise look it up).

And here’s a corollary:

Don’t believe everything you think!

Consider that one for a minute.

Bottom line: It’s up to you to decide what is right for your patients. Others may not have done the leg-work and may not be as knowledgeable as you think. Always check the facts!

The Eighth Law Of Trauma

All trauma professionals need to keep up with the current thinking in their field. There are a variety of ways to do this, including lectures, courses, online curricula, meetings, and reading journal articles.

The last method requires a bit of skill and patience. Many research papers are dry, long, and hard to read. Quite a few people do not have the patience to wade through them, and get lost in all the details. The natural tendency is to just read the abstract. It’s quick, easy, and the conclusion is right there, right?

Read the entire paper!

Unfortunately, there is a lot of opportunity for mayhem when reading scientific papers. The title might not match up with the conclusions. The conclusions may not fully agree with the data. And the abstract generally does not give enough information to draw a conclusion. You must read the entire thing and think critically about it!

Bottom line: Yes, it takes practice. But you will find that it gets easier over time. And you will be surprised at how many times the abstract actually says the opposite of what was outlined in the body of the paper.