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Healthbeat 4: Level II trauma, preparing for emergencies

Sioux City, Iowa (KTIV) -- An ankle fracture, stroke, COVID-19 or other traumatic incidents can mean a trip to the Emergency Room of a local hospital. On the receiving end is a team of professionals who provide the medical treatment to help you, and in some cases, save your life.

There are a variety of reasons people end up in the Emergency Rooms of hospitals. Those injuries require a staff who is ready to go for whomever comes through the doors of the ER.

"You don't schedule trauma. You prepare for it and you stay ready for it because it comes in whenever," said Barbara Fitzgerald, ER Clinical Nurse Educator, MercyOne Siouxland Medical Center.

Fitzgerald says MercyOne Siouxland Medical Center is designated a Level II Trauma Center. Medical facilities receive the ranking through a system designed by the American College of Surgeons.

"A Level II Trauma Center is that we have a certain level of care that we can provide a patient for trauma. So trauma is what we've found over the years is that time is outcome," said Fitzgerald.

Level I Trauma Centers are usually universities and teaching hospitals. The nearest one in our area is in Omaha, Nebraska.

At MercyOne, Fitzgerald says a team of doctors, nurses and other medical professionals work together, often at a moment's notice to figure how to best help each patient.

"So we need to recognize, treat and stabilize that patient who has had a trauma and the faster we do it, the better their outcome, so Level II simply means that we are set up to do that at a higher level than level 3 or level 4," said Fitzgerald.

She says, when you need immediate care because of a traumatic situation, things happen very quickly in the ER because there are a lot of moving parts around the patient.

"We're first off trying to figure out what's going on. And second, trying to navigate that system and bring a lot of moving parts into alignment to get you the care you need, you particularly, and get you moving through that system as quickly as possible," said Fitzgerald.

Being fully prepared to meet the expectations of a Level II Trauma Center requires coordination and much more.

"You prepare for it by making sure the equipment you have is ready, is up and ready to go, checking your rooms, checking your equipment, checking your computer, checking your stocks, your supplies. But then it's training," said Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald says it's all about building on a foundation of knowledge with each and every case, and knowing the proper resources, who you have to go to for help. Nurses have an important role on the medical team.

"The nurse's primary job is to advocate for the patient, take care and make sure that patient is getting the care that they need," said Fitzgerald.

Once a patient is stabilized, Fitzgerald says that's when the nurse or another medical professional can explain what's happening to a patient or family member. The goal of care, she says, is to provide the necessary treatment for the best outcome possible.

Fitzgerald is on this year's list of 100 Great Iowa Nurses, which is put together by There are many other exceptional Siouxland nurses on that list.

The honorees are nurses who make meaningful, lasting contributions to patients, colleagues and the profession as a whole, and they serve as mentors to other nurses. Fitzgerald says she's honored and humbled to be on this year's list.

Stella Daskalakis

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