Category Archives: Education

Rural Trauma Team Development Course Impact On Trauma Transfers

The Rural Trauma Team Development Course (RTTDC) is yet another quality program developed by the American College of Surgeons (ACS). It is designed for all trauma professionals in rural areas including doctors, nurses, advanced practice providers, prehospital providers, and administrative support. The course is presented over the course of one day and covers a number of topics including:

  • Organizing a rural trauma team
  • Preparing rural hospitals to manage trauma patients
  • Identifying local resources and limitations
  • Resuscitation of trauma patients
  • Initiating early transfer
  • Developing a performance improvement process
  • Building relationships between rural hospitals and regional or state trauma systems

The trauma group at Vanderbilt compared a group of six non-trauma hospital in rural Tennessee who had participated in the RTTDC with six other rural hospitals matched for size, volume, and distance from the Level I center.

Here are the factoids:

  • A total of 130 RTTDC patients were compared with 123 from hospitals that had not participated
  • Overall demographics and number of imaging studies were the same
  • The call to transfer occurred 41 minutes sooner in the RTTDC hospitals
  • Length of stay in the referring ED was 61 minutes shorter in the RTTDC hospitals
  • Number of images obtained pre-transfer and mortality were unchanged

Bottom line: The numbers were small and the review was retrospective, but the results are nonetheless impressive. Granted, there was no decrease in mortality, but this is a relatively crude indicator, especially when small numbers are involved. But time to phone call and time spent in the referring ED were significantly shorter. Does anyone think that longer times to transfer are somehow good for patients?

Rural hospitals should consider attending RTTDC in order to improve the care of patients from their communities.

Reference: Rural trauma team development course de-creases time to transfer for trauma patients. J Trauma 81(4):632-637, 2016.

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Surgical Residents And The Danger Of Social Media

Social media usage is ubiquitous, and has a higher prevalence of usage in younger age groups. When the paper I am reviewing was written, 71% of adults with internet access reported using Facebook, and two thirds checked it daily. And now, three years later, I’m sure it’s used even more.

Unfortunately, many people don’t have a good sense of what is appropriate or not. And coupled with confusion about privacy settings, some post things that they probably shouldn’t. And unfortunately, everyone else on the internet can view them.

As a resident, it is more common to be “fired” from residency for unprofessional conduct, not cognitive failure or malpractice. When one is under investigation, the professional organization conducting it may look at prior behavior. And these days, that behavior may be years old and posted for all to see.

Is this a problem? Surgeons at the University of Nebraska were interested in how Facebook was used by surgical residents. They identified surgical residencies at 12 states in the Midwest region. They found all surgical residencies within the region and searched their program websites for the names of active residents. Facebook accounts were then created by the authors and were used to determine which of these residents had their own accounts.

The researchers then viewed those pages and classified the content into three categories: professional, potentially unprofessional, and clearly unprofessional.  Definitions were based on criteria from the ACGME and the AMA. Accounts that were not accessible to the public were judged professional.

A total of 57 surgical residencies were identified, and 40 provided an institutional website with a current roster of their residents. Of 996 surgical residents, the accounts of 319 residents could be evaluated.

Here are the factoids:

  • One third of residents had identifiable Facebook accounts
  • About 74% had only professional content on their site
  • This means that a quarter had potentially or clearly unprofessional content on their sites
  • Clearly unprofessional content included:
    • binge drinking (5 pints of beer in front of a dinner plate, keg stands, comments about being drunk or hung over)
    • sexually suggestive photos (simulated oral sex, female residents in bikinis pointing to their breasts, simulating intercourse on a large cannon)
    • HIPAA violations

Bottom line: Be careful! The use of social media is pervasive. Inappropriate or unprofessional can end a career, or can come back to haunt you years later. And this phenomenon is not limited to surgical residents. All professionals, even attending physicians, may succumb to its charms.

Know the social media policy for your hospital or residency program. Be very careful, and think very carefully about everything you post. Take advantage of built-in privacy settings for the platform you are using. But don’t assume that using them will keep inappropriate material from getting out.  If in doubt, show your potential post to a trusted and reliable friend for a “second opinion.” Otherwise you may find your (not so) friendly “compliance police” knocking on your door. And possibly ending your career.

Reference: An assessment of unprofessional behavior among surgical residents on Facebook: a warning of the dangers of social media. J Surg Educ 71(6):e28-e32, 2014.

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Cognitive Bias – Don’t You Hate It When They Do That?

cognitive_bias

Source: http://chainsawsuit.com/comic/2014/09/16/on-research/

I sat in on a committee meeting once where the management of a particular clinical problem was being vigorously discussed. One of the participants pulled out his smartphone, did a quick search, and said, “Aha! This article shows that my opinion is correct!”

This approach is wrong on so many levels, it’s almost laughable. But it illustrates a real weakness that all human beings have: susceptibility to cognitive bias. 

Scientists have identified somewhere between 150 and 200 different types of cognitive bias, and trying to sort them out will literally make your head spin. For a quick and enlightening read, I recommend reading the article below. It sifts through the mess and lumps them into four understandable categories.

Bottom line: We are all capable of warping what we read, hear, and see to fit our own vortex of pre-existing beliefs. It’s very important to recognize the possibility of bias when you are seeking information so that you can do everything to minimize its impact. If you can’t or won’t do that, then you’ll end up being that know-it-all guy with the smartphone.

Related post:

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Are Graduating General Surgery Residents Qualified To Take Trauma Call?

Trauma training during general surgery residency has changed dramatically over the past two decades. Although we like to blame the 80-hour work week rule on everything, there are other factors that may be at play. Increasing use of nonoperative management, availability and increasing scope of interventional radiologists, and the increasing number of surgical subspecialists are certainly significant.

The surgical group at LAC+USC looked at changes in operative caseloads, type of surgery performed, and the impact that concurrent subspecialty training has had on trauma operative volumes. The authors reviewed 16 years of ACGME data on resident surgical procedures in various body regions by year of training. They specifically looked at the impact of implementation of the 80-hour work week.

Here are the factoids:

  • There was a trend only (p=0.07) toward decreased operative trauma cases
  • The number of trauma laparotomies increased, vascular procedures decreased, and neck explorations and thoracotomies remained stable
  • Trauma vascular procedures decreased for surgical residents, but increased for vascular fellows
  • Individual resident operative volumes in chest, abdomen, solid organ, and extremities decreased after implementation of the 80-hour work week
  • Based on this, the authors recommend residents who are interested in a career in trauma and acute care surgery have fellowship training (??)

AAST2016-Paper29

Bottom line: Well, it was a catchy title, at least. Or is it a promotion for trauma fellowships? I hope the authors have some really good statistics to help this paper out. You may not be able to read the table above well, but the differences between pre-80 hour and post-80 hour are not that impressive, and the SD or SEM (can’t tell what they are) are uncommonly narrow, which amplifies the p values. And other than the number of laparotomies going up, the other numbers looked fairly constant. I look forward to the presentation and critique of this paper at the meeting. Not sure it will escape unscathed.

Reference: Is your graduating general surgery resident qualified to take trauma call? A 15-year appraisal of the changes in general surgery education for trauma. AAST 2016, Paper 39.

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