Tag Archives: trauma team

How Do You Dress YOUR Trauma Team?

Over the years, I’ve seen the trauma teams at quite a few hospitals in action. One thing I have noticed is that most just don’t pay attention to what they wear. I’m talking about wearing personal protective equipment again. It’s one of those things, like hand washing, that everyone knows that they are supposed to do.

There are two reasons to put all that stuff on:

  • To keep potentially contaminated body fluids from getting on you
  • To prevent you from contaminating your patient’s open wounds

The minimum equipment that MUST be worn is a cap of some sort (to keep your hair from falling on the patient), mask and eye protection (mucus membrane protection), gown (protects your clothes), and gloves (obvious). Shoe protection is optional, in my opinion, unless you wear Christian Louboutin to work.

So you’ve been lax with your team. How do you get them to put everything on now? It’s like getting your child to wear a bicycle helmet when they are fourteen.

  • Create an expectation that everyone wear it and empower everyone to point it out. No exceptions. Physicians, this means you.
  • Put all equipment just outside the trauma room door. The farther away it is, the less likely it is to be used.
  • Assign an enforcer. Everyone entering the room must be dressed, or this person will speak up. Ideally, they should be a physician. If not, one of the docs must back this person up.
  • Occasionally, a badly hurt patient gets rolled into the room with little advance notice. In this case the fully dressed people need to relieve those who are not as soon as they dress and walk into the room.

The top picture shows part of our trauma team assembling before a trauma activation. Everyone is dressed. They know that someone will call them on it if they aren’t. Also, note the little pink sticker on the chest of physician at the head of the bed. We have a sticker for every role in the room (bottom picture). At the beginning of a resuscitation I scan the room to make sure everyone has one. It helps identify everyone and makes extraneous personnel stand out so they can be asked to leave the room.

Bottom line: Everyone has to wear their personal protective equipment on every trauma resuscitation. No exceptions.

Related post:

Why Did The Trauma Team Cut Off My Clothes?

The fifth highest priority taught in the ATLS course is exposure. This generally means getting the patient’s clothes off so any hidden injuries can be identified. Early in my career, I was called to see a patient who had a gunshot to the chest that had been missed because the consulting physician had neglected to cut off her bra. A small caliber wound was found under the elastic strap in her left anterior axillary line after a chest xray showed a bullet in mid-thorax.

The usual trauma activation routine is to cut off the clothes. There are several tips and tricks we use to do this quickly. And a number of commercial products are out there to make it even easier.

But do we really need to cut everyone’s clothes off? I’m not disputing the fact that it’s important to be able to examine every square inch. But do we need to destroy everything our patient is wearing? I once saw a sequined wedding dress cut off (it’s almost as bad as cutting off a down jacket).

The answer is no. The key concept here is patient safety. Can you safely remove the clothing in a less destructive way? For most victims of major blunt trauma, we worry a lot about the spine. Unfortunately, it’s just not possible to allow the patient to wriggle out of their clothes and protect their spine. The same goes for fractures; it may be too uncomfortable to remove clothing because of fracture movement so scissors are required.

Penetrating trauma is a bit different, and in many cases it’s a good idea to try to get the clothing off intact. Once again, if spinal injury is a consideration (gunshots only), the involved clothes should be cut off. A patient with a gunshot to the chest can probably have their pants safely and gently pulled off, but their shirt and coat must be cut.

The police forensic investigators like to have intact clothing, if possible. This is another good reason to try to remove clothing from penetrating injury victims without cutting. 

Bottom line: Think before you cut clothes! Major blunt trauma and bad injuries require scissors. Lesser energy blunt injury may allow some pieces of clothing to be removed in the usual method. Most penetrating injury does not require cutting. But if you must (for patient safety), avoid any holes in the fabric so forensics experts can do their job.

How Much Radiation is the Trauma Team Really Exposed To?

Okay, so you’ve seen “other people” wearing perfectly good lead aprons lifting them up to their chin during portable xrays in the trauma bay. Is that really necessary, or is it just an urban legend?

After hitting the medical radiation physics books (really light reading, I must say), I’ve finally got an answer. Let’s say that the xray is taken in the “usual fashion”:

  • Tube is approximately 5 feet above the xray plate
  • Typical chest settings of 85kVp, 2mAs, 3mm Al filtration
  • Xray plate is 35x43cm

The calculated exposure to the patient is 52 microGrays. Most of the radiation goes through the patient onto the plate. A very small amount reflects off their bones and the table itself. This is the scatter we worry about.

So let’s assume that the closest person to the patient is 3 feet away. Remember that radiation intensity diminishes as the square of the distance. So if the distance doubles, the intensity decreases to one fourth. By calculating the intensity of the small amount of scatter at 3 feet from the patient, we come up with a whopping 0.2 microGrays. Since most people are even further away, the dose is much, much less for them.

Let’s put it perspective now. The background radiation we are exposed to every day (from cosmic rays, brick buildings, etc) amounts to about 2400 microGrays per year. So 0.2 microGrays from chest xray scatter is less than the radiation we are exposed to naturally every hour!

The bottom line: unless you need to work out you shoulders and pecs, don’t bother to lift your lead apron every time the portable xray unit beeps. It’s a waste of time and effort!

Trauma Team Qualifications

What kind of credentialing should the members of your trauma team have?

The most important concept in answering this question is based purely on patient care. What shows that your personnel can provide the type of care that their position on the team warrants?

For all physicians, ATLS is a must. Verification agencies, including the American College of Surgeons, require that most providers to have passed the course once. I recommend a current ATLS provider certificate for all physicians, including residents. The course is updated every four years, which means that every time a provider certificate expires, new course content has been added. A current certificate keeps their knowledge up to date.

The airway physician should be either credentialed or have generous experience in managing the airway. This ensures that the intubation process is routine and safe when necessary.

Most, if not all physicians should be also current in ACLS, since major trauma patients may arrest prior to or after arrival at the hospital.

Nurses involved in trauma resuscitations should have additional credentialing such as TNCC. They should also be current in ACLS, and many hospital have added critical care experience and ongoing training requirements related to trauma.

For pediatric trauma programs, a basic pediatric resuscitation course such as PALS or APLS is mandatory. All physicians and nurses taking care of critically injured children should be current so they can provide the best care possible to them.

A piece of paper does not necessarily prove competence. The final part of the qualification process involves your trauma Performance Improvement program. All providers are scrutinized by the PI process, and if any stand out as having too many adverse events to their name, they should not be allowed to participate on the team.

The bottom line: Your trauma team members need to be great at what they do, with appropriate paperwork to prove it and PI monitoring to back it up. They need to be able to easily pass the “family member” test: would I want this person to take care of my (daughter) (husband) (grandmother) etc!