The American Trauma Society (ATS) states that an incident of physical trauma happens every four seconds in the U.S. and that one out of every three people will be affected by trauma in their lifetimes. The ATS defines the titular subject as “any life-threatening occurrence, either accidental or intentional, that causes injuries,” such as from violence or a motor vehicle accident. While doctors and paramedics play a crucial role in responding to such victims, nurses who specialize in emergency care, including trauma, are just as critical in saving lives and preventing permanent disability.
This page will concentrate on providing some essential information about trauma nursing as a profession and listing resources that delve into much more detail. After a brief introduction to this nursing specialty and its scope, an annotated list of helpful websites about trauma nursing, selected for their credibility and thoroughness, follows. Because there is no shortage of information about medical trauma on the Internet, a final section will include sites about the topic that are not especially devoted to nursing.
Nursing and Trauma
A trauma team, the group of medical professionals who treat patients who are in critical condition due to violent injuries, usually includes several emergency nurses. According to Advanced Trauma Care Nurses (ATCN), the kinds of conditions that count as trauma include shock, burns, head trauma, spinal cord injuries, and many more, all of which may be exacerbated by age, pregnancy, and other factors. The National Institute of General Medical Sciences classifies such conditions in two ways: 1) blunt force trauma involves a heavy or fast-moving object (such as a car) striking the patient; 2) penetrating trauma happens when something pierces the skin, such as a bullet. The Institute goes on to state that physical trauma is the leading cause of death for Americans in the 10-24 age range.
So that nurses can help reduce these numbers, the ATCN was founded in 1984. The ATCN is a standardized course for nurses that is part of the universally accepted Advanced Trauma Life Support curriculum of the American College of Surgeons. In this program, all prospective members of a trauma team, including nurses, learn to assess and stabilize a patient as quickly as possible, and determine if the medical facility at which the team works can meet the sufferer’s needs. Emergency nurses may also take the Trauma Nursing Core Course, which offers much of the same content as the ATNC, but addresses “psychosocial aspects of trauma care” and other topics that are not strictly medical.
Trauma Nursing Resources
The websites below either address trauma nursing directly (i.e. the Society of Trauma Nurses, etc.), or provide indirect access to information that is relevant to someone interested in trauma through broad-based emergency nursing resources. Trauma nurses are guaranteed to encounter some of these resources during their careers, including the Emergency Nurses Association and the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing, due to their courses and exams.
- Emergency Nurse Magazine is a British resource that offers news and articles about select topics, including domestic violence. The magazine also focuses on education, providing occasional Continuing Professional Development (CPD) articles.
- Trauma.org, while not specializing in resources for nurses, does provide “Trauma Nursing” as a filter for its many articles about the subject. Otherwise, Trauma.org’s main purpose is to hold conferences, maintain a research library, and present case studies from trauma wards. More information about trauma nursing is available on an archive page as well.
- There are several organizations devoted to trauma nurses in the U.S., including the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) and the Society of Trauma Nurses. Both are centered around education, providing access to courses, and spreading research through conferences and publications. The ENA maintains the Institute for Emergency Nursing Research, which conducts studies and provides access to funding opportunities for researchers, while the Society maintains the Journal of Trauma Nursing.
- A Day in the Life of an Emergency Room Nurse, available from NPR’s station in Boston, is part of its larger series on the shortage of nurses in the health care industry. The article follows Sarah Carlson through a typical ER experience wherein she explains her reasons for becoming a trauma nurse as well.
- The Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing is responsible for preparing registered nurses (RNs) for the rigors and procedures of emergency nursing. The site provides links to study materials, and outline of the different exams’ content, and information about where the test can be taken.
- The American Trauma Society has no particular audience in mind (doctors, nurses, patients, etc.), but has a great deal of information available to anyone involved in the medical specialty. This includes Blast Injury Fact Sheets, lists of trauma centers, access to courses, and a slideshow of general trauma facts.
- The American Burn Association advocates on behalf of medical professionals and burn victims, facilitates the exchange of research, and educates the public about this specific form of trauma. The ABA counts nurses among its members.
- Science Daily: Physical Trauma filters news from its normal science articles, which come from a variety of journalistic and academic sources, to only include stories pertaining to trauma. A brief definition of trauma is also provided.
- Houston Trauma LINK, part of the Baylor College of Medicine, provides fact sheets and maps about the prevalence of physical trauma among children. The information from a 2003 report, for instance, shows that the vast majority of trauma cases were a result of falls and vehicular accidents, and that two thirds of the sufferers were male.
- Teamwork in a Shock Trauma Unit: New Lessons in Leadership, in a detailed article from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, follows Professor Katherine J. Klein as she observes a Baltimore trauma team in operation. Lessons from the unusual organizational structure of such teams are then applied to business leadership.