Mission Critical: Responding to Traumas


Emergencies strike every day in the midst of regular routines. A teenager riding his skateboard falls and slams his head on the pavement. A man jogging in Shoreline Park collapses from cardiac arrest. A woman driving home on Highway 101 is clipped by a speeding vehicle.


They have families, stories and accomplishments -- and lives that they desperately want to return to. The clock can't turn back, but the trauma team at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital does everything possible to keep it moving forward for the people who are transported to its Trauma Center every day, by ambulance and air rescue helicopters.


For each patient, when minutes can mean the difference between life and death, the trauma team members jump into action. They are on a critical mission. Every move they make is with one unified purpose: To save a life.




Always on the move, Denise McDonald, left, and
Kelly Kam review essential details on an incoming trauma patient.


Cottage's designation as a Level II Trauma Center
is determined by the American College of Surgeons
and Santa Barbara County Emergency
Medical Services Agency.

"It takes a unique personality to work in trauma," says Denise McDonald, RN, (clinical manager of Emergency and Trauma Services) who's worked at Cottage for the past 29 years. "It's true, we're adrenaline junkies who thrive at a fast pace and want to help right away. We're a close-knit bunch and this is not a career for someone who doesn't learn quickly and work collaboratively. Trauma cases are intense.


"It's sort of an organized chaos responding to critical injuries," she explains. "Each situation is different. But there are also patients who come in needing a quieter kind of emergency care and compassion, and we provide that balance. No matter what kind of shape they're in we try to remember that they could be our family members, our brothers or sisters. And we treat them that way."


The trauma team is well equipped for its mission. The hospital is a Level II Trauma Center-the only one with this designation on the Central Coast between Los Angeles and San Jose-and its specialized team responds to trauma emergencies throughout Santa Barbara County, as well as parts of Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties.



Cottage Trauma Team
activations by injury in 2008:

Falls:   657
Motor vehicle collisions:   320
Bicycle-related injuries:   142

With the community's support, Cottage has assembled a team of trauma surgeons and nurses, emergency physicians, surgical residents, neurosurgeons, orthopedic surgeons and anesthesiologists along with the latest technology and sophisticated  equipment. It all adds up to a Trauma Center that equals those found in much bigger cities.


"Our trauma bays rival those  found in Level I trauma centers in the top teaching hospitals in Los Angeles, with equally superior state-of-the-art equipment and personnel to provide the best care for our trauma patients," says Kelly Kam, RN (program manager for Trauma and Pre-Hospital Care), citing a recent Joint Commission review.


Holding a Level II designation means that Cottage can pro¬vide rapid response and very aggressive treatment during the critical initial hours of trauma care. Because traumatic injury can affect more than just the body, Cottage's trauma team provides support through recovery. The team includes mental health specialists, social workers, spiritual care services, discharge planners, and rehabilitation therapists.


Additionally, the Cottage Trauma and Surgical Research Department was established in 1997 to promote significant, ethical research in the hospital setting. More than 25 clinical studies are being conducted in areas such as critical care, surgery, trauma, infection, and pain management. It's all part of Cottage's mission to serve the community and to provide the best medical care possible.




Read other stories from the Fall 2009 Cottage Magazine here.