Conference explores challenges of rural trauma


trauma conference

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. – Treating traumatic injuries is a process, starting a few moments after the injury occurs and lasting all the way to rehabilitation, sometimes months or even years later, and it’s crucial to get it right every step of the way.

The fourth-annual Trauma Conference, held Thursday, Aug. 30, at The Millennium Centre, brought together nearly 200 people involved in the treatment of trauma, giving them an opportunity to network with each other and to learn more about trends, new developments and specific aspects of treating trauma.

“We’re dedicated to providing world-class trauma care,” said Dr. Tyler Putnam, director of trauma services at Mountain States Health Alliance (MSHA) and one of the event organizers. “This conference is about exchanging ideas and increasing the teamwork we have, and it involves people from all over the region.”

The conference audience included emergency personnel, physicians, nurses, rehab specialists and others. MSHA and Johnson City Medical Center sponsored the event.

The focus was on rural trauma, featuring a keynote talk by Dr. Warren C. Dorlac entitled, “Lessons from Iraq and Afghanistan: Implications for American Rural Trauma.” Dorlac is a retired colonel in the U.S. Air Force and is associate professor of surgery in the division of trauma/critical care at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.

Many of the trauma situations dealt with by the military create similar treatment challenges to trauma incidents in rural areas, and Dorlac told the audience about some of the difficulties – and successes – the military has had in treating wounded military personnel and how they could be applied to this area.

Other topics covered at the conference by a variety of experts included gravity-related trauma (falls), pediatric trauma, air transport of trauma patients in a rural area, thoracic trauma and political/legal aspects of trauma. Putnam said this area has seen a dramatic increase in trauma injuries caused by falls – a result of the region’s aging population.

“For the first time in the last several years, falls have actually overcome motor vehicle crashes as our No. 1 cause of trauma,” he said.

Exhibitors from various companies and local services were on hand at the conference, including representatives of local rescue services. The Washington County/Johnson City EMS Rescue team staged a mock rescue that involved lowering a trauma patient (in this case, a dummy patient) in a stretcher, by rope, from the top of the Millennium Centre.

There were also survivor stories, featuring three local traumatic injury survivors, all young people who talked about their long, difficult battles and multiple surgeries on the road to recover: Christopher Cook, who survived a motorcycle accident; Miranda Johnson, who lost a leg in a boat accident; and Tyler Eib, badly injured in a car wreck. These often emotional stories, presented with related photos on the big screen, were examples of successful trauma treatment despite horrific accidents.

“It takes a multitude of people to take care of trauma patients,” said Carol Jones, RN, who is Trauma Program manager at JCMC and helped organize the conference. “Most people think of the emergency department in relation to trauma but it actually starts before that, and it doesn’t stop until even months after the injury.”

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