Denver Health Sees Increase in Trauma Patients During Summer Months
July 31, 2023
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Denver Health Trauma Services is busy throughout the year. In the wintertime, one priority is treating patients flown in from surrounding mountain towns involved in skiing accidents, but warmer weather actually leads to an uptick in trauma patients arriving at Denver Health. People are more active outdoors, more likely to travel, and more frequently interacting with each other and their surroundings, increasing the likelihood of an accident.
When a traumatic accident does occur, there is almost no better hospital in the world to be taken to than Denver Health. Denver Health’s Ernest E. Moore Shock Trauma Center is named after the person who wrote the book on trauma.
Denver Health trauma surgeon Dr. Ernest E. Moore is co-author and editor of Trauma, now in its ninth edition. The leading reference textbook for the care of trauma patients, Trauma has been in circulation since the mid-1980s when it was first published.
Such is the legacy and importance of Denver Health’s Trauma Services and the Ernest E. Moore Shock Trauma Center, one of the world’s leading trauma centers with one of the highest survival rates in the country.
Trauma, Greek for “wound,” refers to a physical injury. Denver Health trauma surgeon and current Trauma Medical Director Dr. Barry Platnick explained, “Trauma [Services] takes care of people so injured that typically they require admission to the hospital, and management by surgeons and surgical subspecialists.”
In 2022, Denver Health saw more than 18,000 patients from Colorado and six other states, with trauma transfers from more than 100 regional hospitals. The trauma survival rate for Denver Health patients is over 97%.
Typical trauma accidents include motor vehicle and bicycle crashes, falls, near-drowning, physical assaults such as gunshot or stab wounds, lightning strikes, and injuries from contact sports. These incidents all tend to increase in the summer.
“During the summer, it seems to be more bicycle crashes, motorcycle crashes as the weather warms up,” said Sherrie Peckham, BSN, RN, Denver Health’s Clinical Director of Trauma.
The triage process begins as soon as patients encounter Denver Health personnel, whether an EMT or paramedic at the scene of an accident or if they arrive at Denver Health Medical Center on their own.
“We have a multi-tiered approach to trauma patients based on their level of acuity, the severity of the injury,” explained Platnick. “It doesn’t really matter how they arrive. It’s more a matter of what they present with. They get the full measure of everything there is to offer or could possibly be required. Because in trauma, the motto is ‘Over-triage.’ It’s better to be too prepared than it is to be underprepared. And for us, I would rather show up with everything possible and not need it than to show up under-resourced.”
Denver Health experiences an increase in water-related injuries during the summer, such as diving injuries and accidents involving motorboats. “But it’s motorcycles, bicycles, falls. We’ll see more people falling from heights, whether they’re rock climbing or falling out of open windows,” said Platnick.
As a Level One Adult and Level Two Pediatric Trauma Center, Denver Health is the only trauma center in the region that can provide the highest quality trauma care to family members of any age. Other Level I Trauma Centers must separate families involved in the same accident by admitting the adults and transferring the pediatric patients.
Platnick has high praise for his colleagues in the departments he works with closely on a regular basis, such as Denver Health’s Paramedic Division, Emergency Department, Neurosurgery, Orthopedics, Plastic Surgery, and Anesthesiology. But he singles out rehabilitation services—physical, occupational, respiratory, speech and swallowing, and psychological therapy—as also indispensable and often overlooked when it comes to holistically treating a patient.
“We [Trauma Services] take care of people when they’re injured, we save them, we mitigate further disability,” he said. “But when it comes to getting back to the kind of life they want to live, therapy is critical. That’s where our physiatrists, our physical therapists, our occupational therapists, and speech therapists really shine.”
Platnick relayed how important philanthropy is to maintain and enhance the world-renowned level of trauma care that Denver Health delivers.
“There’s something called the Trauma Survivors Network, which is a program that we have here where we try to connect people who are devastatingly injured with resources in the community,” he explained. “That’s basically one of our people using some of their time to try to do this. If we had several other people, we would be able to connect survivors of trauma with support groups, with therapy, with supplies, housing, food, medication that they don’t have.”
Platnick pointed to capital resources for equipment and materials as critically important, but an increase in non-medical personnel, such as social workers and chaplains, is equally important to a strong trauma program. He emphasized that bringing on more staff for outreach and education on trauma safety is vital. Teaching geriatric patients how to fall-proof their home, teaching children to use bicycle helmets, distributing gun locks—this outreach is a core component of Denver Health’s mission.
“We do a lot of work with very little resources,” he said. “I think it’s safe to say if we were better resourced, we could do more for our population.”
Denver Health Trauma Services and the Ernest E. Moore Shock Trauma Center are representative of the hospital’s approach to integrated health care.
“One of the things that is truest about trauma unlike almost any other field of medicine in a hospital—it involves every aspect of the hospital. Everybody,” explained Platnick. “There’s pretty much no service in the hospital that isn’t tapped into the management of the really acute trauma patients.”