August 14, 1998

New unit dedicated to care of trauma patients debuts

New unit dedicated to care of trauma patients debuts

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Mayor Phil Bredesen (right) helped cut the ribbon on VUMC's new trauma unit with (from left) Dr. John Morris Jr., Dr. Harry Jacobson, Sandy Greeno, M.S.N., and Dr. John Sargent. (Photo by Donna Jones Bailey)

Vanderbilt University Medical Center's commitment to providing the region's highest level of care to critically injured patients is being bolstered by a new 31-bed unit dedicated to trauma care.

Located on the 10th floor of Vanderbilt University Hospital, the new Trauma Care Center is designed to enhance the critical care services Vanderbilt University Medical Center already provides ‹ services which long ago led to its designation as the region's only level-one trauma center, the highest level attainable.

The new center will provide important new opportunities to improve the quality and efficiency of trauma care at Vanderbilt, said Dr. John A. Morris Jr., professor of surgery and director of the trauma patient care center.

"Aggregation of trauma patients on a single unit will allow greater focus on the special needs of our patients and help further the expertise of our staff," Morris said. Trauma patients currently are served by the surgical intensive care unit and six other surgical and orthopaedic care units.

The space on 10 North, formerly an adolescent care unit, has been renovated to include 14 intensive care beds and 17 stepdown beds. A room for radiological testing has been installed, saving patients from transit to the first floor, and the 10th floor central waiting room has been enlarged. The Surgical Intensive Care Unit (SICU) will remain on the hospital's third floor.

With the new unit will come a new way of working, said Sandy Greeno, administrative director of the trauma patient care center.

"With this consolidation of our trauma staff we¹re undergoing a big effort to instill the patient care center¹s mission, vision and values," Greeno said.

The new unit is also expected to boost efficiency by reducing costs.

"The care of trauma is inefficient by nature, but from a systems standpoint this consolidation also will allow us to manage as efficiently as we can," Morris said, adding that the trauma unit has targeted a 4 percent reduction in cost per patient during its first year in operation.

VUMC provides a blanket of protection across a 62,000-square-mile coverage area, and its services are needed now more than ever before. During the past decade, VUMC has experienced a dramatic increase in the number of trauma patients treated. There are approximately 3,000 trauma admissions every year, compared with 2,000 annually 10 years ago. These figures include adult trauma, pediatric trauma and burn patients.

The new center adds to VUMC's broad range of trauma patient care services, which includes the LifeFlight air ambulance service, the burn unit, rehabilitation and trauma prevention education programs.

The burn unit began taking trauma patients in March after its nurses underwent brief training in the SICU, and the burn unit will remain available as the only other VUH unit accepting trauma patients.

"The new organizational structure at VUMC is based on each patient care center receiving a set number of beds, eliminating overflow to other areas," Greeno said.

With the opening of the new trauma unit the SICU¹s average daily census in the short term is expected to drop from 25 to 12. The SICU will stay on 3 North and undergo renovations to better suit the intensive care needs of current surgical patients and to allow for expected growth of Vanderbilt¹s cardio-thoracic surgery program.

Vanderbilt undertook thorough efforts to support intensive care staff in the transition to new duties. Leaders for trauma and the SICU produced a twice-monthly newsletter devoted to a smooth transition and held twice-monthly meetings to air staff concerns. In April the SICU¹s 70 nurses and 30 clinical support staff were asked to state their preferences regarding unit, shift and total hours of work per week. Assignments were based on their preferences and their work experience, and the majority of the nursing staff and all of the support staff received their first choice, Greeno said.