Knife wounds are thankfully rare in West Norfolk but doctors were able to keep their skills up-to-date during a two-day trauma training course.
Each year up to 240 patients are treated at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital’s Emergency Department with serious injuries which most commonly have been sustained in falls or road crashes.
Consultants, junior doctors, nurses and other clinical staff were able to learn and practice the latest techniques during the Advanced Trauma Life Support Course (ATLS) on 27 and 28 February.
The hospital has been running the course, on behalf of the Royal College of Surgeons, for the last six years to not only allow doctors to hone their skills but also give them confidence in dealing with rare injuries.
Consultant Anaesthetist Dr Alistair Steel, who has been running the course locally for six years, said this course was important for doctors as well as the local community.
He said: “We see between 50 and 100 people each year who have very severe traumatic injuries so courses like this are really important in not only helping our doctors remain up-to-date but also have the confidence in applying these skills.
“This is the sixth year we have run the course as we are always looking for ways to improve trauma care within the QEH.
“The commonest cause of major trauma in the UK is falls, but at the QEH we care for all sorts of trauma patients including road traffic collisions, assaults, sports injuries and boating accidents. Broken limbs and rib fractures commonly result from these incidents but we also see a significant number of patients every year with brain, chest or abdominal injuries. Rarely this even means are teams are having to performing emergency heart surgery. Any patient can came through the front doors, and without a moment’s notice, which is why courses like ATLS are so important.”
In the run-up to the course, candidates have access to the virtual learning zone and they then build on that knowledge during the two days by practicing techniques.
On the final day of the course, volunteers were made-up by Emma Benefer to look like trauma victims.
Dr Steel said: “This really helps the candidates to immerse themselves into this and make it as realistic as possible. This gives them the confidence they need to go home after the course and be part of the seven-strong QEH emergency trauma team that responds to these incidents at the 24/7.”
A key note from the latest course is the change of learning how to deal with major blood loss and transfusions.
Dr Steel said: “Traditionally, with blood transfusions and massive bleeding management, the treatment was to use just red blood cells. We now know that there are many important components of blood besides the red cells which are vital for clots to form to stop bleeding, so we now emphasise the need for plasma and platelet transfusions in addition to the red cells. Much of this new knowledge has been learnt for military practice and courses like ATLS help ensure this knowledge is shared widely throughout the UK.
“We are trained to be sparing with blood stocks as we are mindful that it is a scarce resource and we now have better knowledge on how bleeding stops.
“Also, we promote the early use of tranexamic acid sooner than we would in trauma before. This medicine helps stop blood clots from being broken down which can be life-saving in trauma patients. ”
In West Norfolk, falls among older people are the most common cause of trauma in this area which can result in life-changing injuries.
Dr Steel said: “There are simple things people can do to try and reduce the risk of suffering a fall. This includes removing trip hazards like rugs, making sure there is sturdy furniture around to lean on and improving lighting.”
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