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The Nebraska Medical Center and CUMC Designated “Comprehensive” Trauma Centers

For 15 years, the city of Omaha has taken a unique approach to treating trauma patients. The Omaha Trauma System which consists of the two academic medical centers in Omaha, Creighton University Medical Center and The Nebraska Medical Center along with Life Net helicopter, partner to treat critically injured patients from around the metro.

For the first time ever, the state of Nebraska has designated both hospitals as Comprehensive Trauma Centers, its highest designation. The Nebraska Medical Center and CUMC are the only hospitals in the state to receive this designation.

These two trauma centers each take the trauma cases on a given day. Paramedics bring trauma patients to CUMC on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. The Nebraska Medical Center is the trauma hospital Tuesday, Friday and Sunday. Each hospital has a trauma surgeon, orthopedic surgeon and a neurosurgeon on standby during its designated trauma period. Operating rooms are also on standby.

To achieve designation, strict criteria have been set by the State of Nebraska. State reviewers along with out-of-state trauma surgeons and program managers from other trauma centers spend a full day at each hospital looking closely at the trauma system and patient charts to ensure that care meets or exceeds national standards of care. Reviewers also tour each facility to make sure the proper equipment is available and adequate space is devoted to each trauma patient. This year, the reviewers came from a major trauma center in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Along with review of equipment, facilities and charts, a review of the Process Improvement and Peer Review is a major part of the designation visit. Reviewers audited meeting minutes and records of trauma cases to make sure each hospital continually analyze and improve its processes.

“This part of the process keeps us looking forward,” said Diane Yetter, RN, MSN, coordinator of the trauma program at The Nebraska Medical Center. “It’s good to get input and perspective from other large trauma centers.”

“We have a unique situation in Omaha, to have a formal trauma service offered by two academic medical centers,” said CUMC Trauma Coordinator Megan Sorensen, RN, BSN, CEN. “This relationship provides high quality healthcare to our community’s trauma victims and to all our surrounding communities.”

Omaha’s two hospital trauma system was put to the test after the Dec. 5, 2007 shooting at the Westroads Mall.

“The Westroads Mall shooting was a tragic day for Omaha, but it also presented a good example of our teams working together for the greater good,” said Samuel Cemaj, MD, Creighton University Medical Center Trauma Director.

Both CUMC and The Nebraska Medical Center treated critically wounded patients from that tragedy.

“These surviving patients are living examples of the success of the two-hospital trauma system,” explained Joseph Stothert, MD, trauma medical director for The Nebraska Medical Center and the state of Nebraska. “When you need it, as in the case of a mass casualty situation, you have two hospitals prepared to treat patients as opposed to just one.”

At a Trauma Center:

  • Caregivers – surgeons, nurses, ancillary clinicians – are specially-trained in handling the most dire and critical cases.
  • Trauma surgery is available in-house, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, including anesthesia.
  • Immediate access to sub-specialty expertise, including neurosurgery, orthopedics and plastic surgery.
  • Ancillary services such as physical therapy, speech therapy, social work and pastoral care are automatically engaged for all incoming trauma patients.
  • Trauma clinicians are recognized as the best in their field so they become educators for small community health care facilities in the area of trauma preparedness.

Trauma teams at both medical centers are involved with more than just treating patients in their hospitals. The Trauma Coordinators are also focused on outreach and education. They spend time at schools talking about prevention; at rural hospitals and with fire departments providing trauma care education.

Sixty percent of trauma patients come to CUMC and The Nebraska Medical Center from inside Douglas County. Eighteen percent come from Iowa and the remaining 22 percent of patients come from areas in Nebraska outside of Douglas County.


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