Penn Medicine's Patrick K. Kim, MD, Trauma Program Director for the Penn Division of Traumatology, Surgical Critical Care & Emergency Surgery, answers questions from a group of Philadelphia nurses on wound care and tourniquet application.
While students were picking out their outfits and sharpening pencils, and teachers were preparing their classrooms for a new year, last week the School District of Philadelphia joined with Penn Medicine’s Trauma Program to kick-off a local campaign that’s working to save lives.
The effort is part of the national Stop of the Bleed campaign, a movement encouraged by the White House and Department of Homeland Security, to put “knowledge gained by first responders and our military into the hands of the public to help save lives.” Locally, it’s working to provide members of the Philadelphia community with basic tools and information on the simple steps they can take in an emergency situation to stop life threatening blood loss.
Bleeding injuries – like those suffered in bombings and mass shootings in Orlando, San Bernadino, and Paris – are the second leading cause of trauma-related deaths in the country. Further, studies have shown that uncontrolled blood loss was the leading cause of preventable death among troops who died on the battlefield or in military treatment facilities. Excessive and uncontrolled bleeding can result in death in less than five minutes, often before trained responders are on the scene.
Penn Medicine’s first Stop the Bleed event was held at Lincoln Financial Field, and provided more than 250 school nurses with hands-on training on how to stem bleeding through proper application of tourniquets, gauze packs or bandages, and safely open an airway.
“Much like CPR, lifesaving maneuvers can be performed by anyone, yet the general public remains largely unfamiliar with proper application of tourniquets and other bleeding control procedures,” said John Gallagher, DNP, RN, director of the Penn Medicine Trauma Program and Penn’s Stop the Bleed campaign. “Our goal is to empower the public – and especially people who are more likely to witness an active shooter or another devastating incident – to save lives. We’re hopeful that with proper training we’ll see a reduction in deaths resulting from blood loss in our community.”
Since the nationwide launch of the campaign in 2015, organizations and businesses across the country including the American Heart Association, the American College of Surgeons, the American Red Cross, and even airports, have signed on to teach civilians basic live-saving techniques that can save a life. In addition to offering training for the public, campaign supporters are working to make tourniquets and bleeding control kits commonplace in schools, stadiums, airports, malls and other places to reduce casualties from mass attacks and bombings.
The framework for the national campaign was heavily influenced by lessons learned in military trauma care during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Research on tourniquet application and effectiveness, for example, showed a significant reduction in lives lost on the battlefield. Although the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) recently called for the integration of military and civilian trauma systems to allow for lessons learned to be shared between the two sectors, in the meantime, Stop the Bleed takes the lessons directly to community members.
“Stop the Bleed is taking the supplies that have saved the lives of soldiers on the battlefield, and placing them in the hands of the public,” said Jeremy Cannon, MD, an associate professor of surgery in the division of Traumatology, who joined Penn Medicine after completing his military service in the U.S. Air Force, where he served as a combat surgeon in three tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. “There’s often a concern among the general public about cutting off blood loss or other dangers of tourniquet application, but that’s why these courses are so important. Applying pressure or properly applying a tourniquet can be lifesaving. It’s crucial that people understand that it’s better to lose a limb than it is to lose a life.”
Penn Medicine’s Stop the Bleed campaign was made possible through a grant from the Penn Medicine CAREs program. Initial funding will support the purchase of teaching materials – including tourniquets, dressings and educational handouts). In the long-term, Gallagher says the team hopes to secure enough funding to be able to provide bleeding control kits to groups and organizations that participate in trainings.