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‘They don’t run away when bad things happen’: Being ready for the worst makes trauma team an award winner

The Granite Falls Hospital trauma team is the most recent — and one of the smallest — of the state’s hospitals to receive the Trauma Team Excellence Award presented by the Hennepin County Medical Center. Karie Pearce, HCMC trauma outreach coordinator, presents the award to Dr. Darrell Carter as team members applaud. TRIBUNE/Tom Cherveny

GRANITE FALLS — Your chances of surviving a gunshot wound, mishap on the farm, collision with a tractor-trailer, or any other type of traumatic injury are much better in rural Minnesota these days.

More and more health care teams at rural Minnesota hospitals are trained in a program known as Comprehensive Advanced Life Support.  The hands-on training and education making a big difference in positive outcomes, according to Karie Pearce, trauma outreach coordinator with the Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis, and a member of the program board of directors.

She’s made trips in recent months to Willmar, St. Cloud and Hutchinson to present excellence awards for trauma care to the teams at the regional medical centers serving those communities. In the past year they have saved lives and provided positive outcomes that can only be described as “pretty incredible,’’ Pearce said.

Last week, she visited one of the smallest hospitals to come to the attention of the Hennepin County Medical Center’s emergency care program for life-saving care that met that standard as well.

She presented the most recent Trauma Team Excellence Award to the Granite Falls Hospital and its health care team.

It didn’t surprise her that one of the smaller hospitals with a  Comprehensive Advanced Life Support-trained team would come to attention of the HCMC, the state’s largest emergency care facility.

 “These guys really wrote the book out there on trauma care and teamwork,’’ Pearce said.

Dr. Darrell Carter has practiced in Granite Falls since 1972. He was among the state’s leaders in implementing the program to provide rural health care providers with the training to handle the wide range of traumatic injuries that bring people to rural emergency rooms.

Dr. Carter and a team of rural health care providers launched Comprehensive Advanced Life Support in 1993, and have since taken it across the country and beyond. He has helped train U.S. Embassy personnel stationed at locations from Tajikistan in Central Asia to Djibouti on the Horn of Africa.

Comprehensive Advanced Life Support is all about a team approach, and making it possible for every member of the team to be well-trained and ready for the wide range of emergencies that can come their way, according to Carter. “The stronger the team, the better the care,’’ he said. “It really has shown here.’’

Pearce presented the award to the Granite Falls team on November 18. Not coincidentally, it followed a Comprehensive Advanced Life Support training session hosted in the community.

Pearce pointed out that CALS requires ongoing training. Hospitals with the teams devote significant time and resources to make it work, she added.

Saving lives makes all the effort worthwhile, of course, but there are other rewards too. Carter said that early in his practice he knew the frustration of caring for trauma cases absent the team training that is now the hallmark of Comprehensive Advanced Life Support. Team members trained in CALS have the support of one another. They also have the confidence that comes with being as prepared as possible for the many different stressful challenges that come with trauma care.

 “There’s a feeling they can handle it,’’ Carter said. “They don’t run away when bad things happen.’’

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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