Category Archives: Philosophy

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!

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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.

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The Seventh Law of Trauma

Healthcare is a complex affair, and sometimes things don’t go entirely as planned. Occasionally, an elective OR may not be available the next day. This is especially true now in the COVID age with hospitals decreasing their OR capabilities. Or it may take longer  than usual to medically clear a frail patient for surgery. But here is something to keep at top of mind:

Your patient is at their healthiest as they roll in through the emergency department door

Yes, major trauma patients are sick, but they are going to get sicker over the next few hours to days. No matter how bad they look now, they will tolerate more at the time you first see them than they will tomorrow.

Too often, we look at them and delay because “they are too sick to operate.” This is usually not the case.

Bottom line: Move quickly, get surgical clearances done promptly, and perform all interventions (especially major surgery) early before your trauma patient gets really sick!

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The Sixth Law Of Trauma

Here’s another one. I’ve seen the clinical problems and poor outcomes that can arise from ignoring it many times over the years.

You’ve ordered a CT or a conventional x-ray image. The result comes back in your EMR. You take a quick glance at the summary at the bottom of the report. No abnormal findings are listed. So now, in your own mind and in any sign-outs that you provide, the image is normal.

Here’s the rub. Saying something is not abnormal doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s normal. Hence the sixth law:

Always look at the image yourself.

Sometimes, the radiologist misses key findings on the image. Sometimes they see them and make a note of them in the body of the report. But they don’t get the clinical significance and don’t mention it in the summary (which is the only thing you looked at, remember?).

Bottom line: Always make a point to pull up the actual images and take a look. You have the full clinical picture, so you may appreciate findings that the radiologist may not. Sure, you may not have much experience or skill reading more sophisticated studies, but how do you think you develop that? Read it yourself!

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The Fifth Law Of Trauma – Pediatric

And another law to end the first week! Any time I give a pediatric talk, I mention it. This one applies to anyone who takes care of children, and is particularly important to EMS / prehospital providers and emergency physicians.

On occasion, medics are called to a home to treat a child in extremis, or occasionally in arrest. Similarly, extremely sick children are often brought to the ED by parents or other caregivers.

Here’s the fifth law:

A previously healthy child who is in arrest, or nearly so, is a victim of child abuse until proven otherwise.

Bottom line: It’s so easy to go down the sepsis path with sick kids, especially those who can’t talk yet. But healthy children tend to stay healthy, and don’t easily get sick to the point of physiologic collapse. If you encounter one as a prehospital provider, glance around at the environment, and evaluate the caregivers. In the ED, ask pointed questions about the circumstances and do a full body examination. What you hear and what you see may drastically alter how you evaluate the patient and may save their life.

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