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As unofficial start of summer nears, Upstate Trauma Center braces for its busiest months

The trauma sign outside the Upstate University Hospital's Emergency Department.

The Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of the summer season when the promise of good weather brings more people outside to bike, hike, swim and otherwise enjoy the pleasant weather.

But it is also the busiest time for Upstate University Hospital’s Level 1 Trauma Center.

About three out of every ten trauma admissions annually occur in the months of June, July and August.

Last year the Trauma Center handled 671 admissions during the peak summer months. That equals about seven patients a day who were hospitalized with traumatic injuries.

“Tis the season to be out and about and doing more risky activities,” said Jolene Kittle, RN, coordinator of the Upstate Trauma Center. “Some people believe the winter months are filled with more trauma, but that’s not the case. Travel can be treacherous, so we are more cautious in the winter. When summer arrives, people typically throw caution to the wind—and that’s when accidents happen.”

The Upstate trauma team mobilizes for the most serious injuries that come in through the Emergency Department. These injuries are classified as blunt or penetrating injuries, highlighted by possible internal organ damage, broken bones, lacerations and contusions.

Falls make up the most common reasons for landing in the trauma center. Injuries are likely to include broken bones needing surgery and significant rehabilitation.

However, Kittle warns that the most significant injuries come from motorcycle crashes, bike accidents, pedestrian/car accidents, motor vehicle crashes, and the summer is when these incidents increase.

Especially alarming to the pediatric trauma team is the increase in incidents of motor/pedestrian admissions involving children under the age of 15. From May to September 2018, Upstate saw 20 patients from such incidents.

“We want everyone to have an enjoyable summer, but err on the side of caution,” said Kittle, who is certified as a trauma registered nurse, adult critical care and emergency nurse.

The Upstate Trauma Center is the region’s only Level 1 trauma center, providing trauma care for a 14-county region and facilitates transports from ambulance and first aid crews from all across the region. Upstate has received verification of its Level 1 trauma status for adults and children by a special committee of the American College of Surgeons.

A Level I trauma center is capable of providing total care for every aspect of injury—from prevention through rehabilitation.

Elements of Level I trauma centers include:

•       24-hour in-house coverage by general surgeons, and prompt availability of care in specialties such as orthopedic surgery, neurosurgery, anesthesiology, emergency medicine, radiology, internal medicine, plastic surgery, oral and maxillofacial, pediatric and critical care.
•       Referral resource for communities in nearby regions.
•       Provides leadership in prevention, public education to surrounding communities.
•       Provides continuing education of the trauma team members.
•       Incorporates a comprehensive quality assessment program.
•       Operates an organized teaching and research effort to help direct new innovations in trauma care.
•       Program for substance abuse screening and patient intervention.
•       Meets minimum requirement for annual volume of severely injured patients.

Members of Upstate Trauma Center team are Jan Sawyer, RN, BSN; Josetta Duffus, LPN; Angela D’Andrea; Heather Losee, RN; Jolene Kittle, MS, RN; Michele Lewis; William Marx, DO; Sharon Menand; Jerry Morrison, RN; Kim Nasby, RN; Miranda Wasilenko; Kim Wallenstein, MD, PHD.