May 15th, 2015

As a verified Level II Trauma Center, Portneuf Medical Center (PMC) and its trauma team are standing by to serve Emergency Department (ED) patients in their time of need.

An ambulance siren echoes en route to the hospital. Every three minutes, someone in the United States dies from a traumatic injury, and these emergencies lead to more than 41 million ED visits every year, according to the National Trauma Institute.

PMC’s emergency team treated 441 trauma patients in 2014. With a commitment to providing exceptional patient care, PMC achieved its verification as a Level II Trauma Center by the American College of Surgeons in September 2014 and has a team ready and prepared for when trauma patients arrive. As one of only four verified trauma centers in Idaho, PMC lists car accidents and falls as the two most prominent causes of traumatic injury in ED patients.

PMC Trauma Director Drew McRoberts, M.D., FACS, leads the hospital’s efforts to expedite trauma care that ultimately saves lives.

“We have policies and procedures in place to make sure trauma patients receive the highest quality and safe care the moment they arrive in the ED,” Dr. McRoberts says.

Choreographed Care

Practicing care procedures and creating clinical pathways keeps the PMC trauma team on point when they are called into action.

“There has to be a coordinated effort,” Dr. McRoberts says. “If someone is in a motor vehicle crash and ejected from the car, he could have every part of his body injured. We immediately implement our trauma protocol once we’re notified by the paramedics.”

Once trauma patients reach the ED, the nature of their injuries sets the whole team in motion. ED physicians perform the initial patient evaluation and choreograph treatment protocols that may include accelerated ultrasound imaging, laboratory tests, X-rays, respiratory care, and medications. Specialists, including orthopedic and neurosurgeons, are available to make immediate consultations when necessary.

“We have trauma drills to keep the team performing like a well-oiled machine,” Dr. McRoberts says. “All PMC general surgeons have training from large Level I Trauma Centers to help care for critically injured patients.”

In addition to the clinical staff, other important members of the PMC team during a medical emergency are social workers. Their expertise can help distraught family members both during and after the initial treatment process when further care or rehabilitation may be needed.

“Case managers are available at all times in the ED,” Dr. McRoberts says. “We handle the acute part in the ED, but patients may not go home right away. Social workers can help arrange follow-up care.”

Working alongside Dr. McRoberts, Trauma Program Manager Greg Vickers serves as the link between trauma team members and the various hospital departments and EMS agencies to synchronize efforts, create care plans, and develop clinical care manuals.

“We want to perform the protocols the same each and every time,” Vickers says. “We treat all trauma patients according to best practices.”

Idaho Time Sensitive Emergency

Saving more lives through effective trauma treatment is not only a goal for PMC but also the Idaho state legislature, which approved the Time Sensitive Emergency system in 2014. Both Dr. McRoberts and Vickers were involved in drafting the legislation. Vickers remains on the statewide council, which is working to establish and implement care protocols for trauma, heart attack, and stroke patients.

“These are three emergencies where time to treatment really matters,” Dr. McRoberts says. “States that have a system to regulate emergency care for these patients clearly have much better outcomes.”

“Before passing this legislation, Idaho was one of only three states in the country that did not have a statewide trauma system,” Vickers adds. “Now, we are one of the few with a comprehensive Time Sensitive Emergency system to cover all three emergencies.”

Within Idaho’s emergency system, PMC is the lead hospital for the Southeast Region.

“Having served as the trauma director for 19 of my 20 years at PMC, I can say for sure that we are providing a higher quality of care right now than we ever have,” Dr. McRoberts says.