By its very nature, trauma occurs suddenly and unexpectedly, often with devastating results. Whether you’ve fallen and broken a bone or been in a car crash, fast access to medical attention from a qualified hospital or treatment center can mean the difference between life and death.
“Trauma can happen any time of the year, but as far as the severity of injury goes, trauma season escalates between Memorial Day and Labor Day,” says Dr. Barry McKenzie, a trauma surgeon with St. Vincent Healthcare in Billings.
“Regardless of the season, you never know when you may suffer a traumatic injury. That’s why it’s so important to have a plan ahead of time,” added Dr. Brian Drake, St. Vincent Healthcare orthopedic trauma surgeon. “Think about where you would want to receive your care and make sure your loved ones are aware as well.”
St. Vincent Healthcare has been designated as a Level II Trauma Center, providing the highest level of trauma care in the state, since 1993. This Level II designation qualifies St. Vincent to deliver definitive care for complex and severe trauma patients.
St. Vincent Healthcare in Billings cares for more trauma patients than any other hospital in Montana, according to the State of Montana’s 2021 Trauma Registry annual report. Additionally, because St. Vincent can treat many trauma patients locally, their families don’t have to deal with the burden of being transferred to facilities outside the state.
“St. Vincent has really invested in subspecialty trauma care, so not only do we keep patients here, but the quality of care they receive matches the quality of any major medical center,” Dr. McKenzie said.
An example of this investment is St. Vincent’s HELP (Helicopter Emergency Lifesaving Program) Flight program. One of the first programs of its kind in the country, HELP Flight is the only helicopter service based in Billings that can travel to trauma scenes and quickly transport patients back to the hospital.
St. Vincent also specializes in pediatric trauma care. With the only dedicated pediatric intensive care unit and pediatric surgery program in eastern Montana, the specially trained, kid-friendly doctors and nurses at St. Vincent know how to best care for infants, children and their families.
Although it’s impossible to avoid every trauma, a few preventive measures can greatly reduce the risk of serious summer injuries.
“We strongly encourage helmet use whenever you’re riding a motorcycle or ATV, a bike or a skateboard,” Dr. Drake says. “You’re only one good head bonk away from a really bad time.”
Alcohol and drug use contribute to the seasonal spike in traumas, so it is never a good idea to operate a vehicle, boat or machinery while under the influence.
The highly skilled trauma team at St. Vincent includes specialized doctors, surgeons, nurses and support staff who receive continuing education to stay on top of the most current trauma technology, treatments and advancements. Hospital staff also prioritize informing the community by providing fall prevention education and by teaching a Stop the Bleed program with life-saving strategies in case of accidents or mass casualty situations.
“Having a tourniquet with you that’s safe and simple, or even gauze or a T-shirt, can save someone’s life with the proper teaching,” Dr. McKenzie says. “It’s just another way we are investing in the community to help people be prepared and be able to turn what might have been a horrible tragedy into a good story.”
When trauma does happen, St. Vincent Healthcare in Billings is always there and ready to help.
“We have a full array of resources and the ability to take care of almost any injury you could imagine,” Dr. Drake says. “Patients know that they can come to our facility and we will provide the highest level of care that can be given in Montana.”
Now part of the Intermountain Healthcare system, St. Vincent Healthcare serves patients through Montana and Northern Wyoming through comprehensive hospital services and primary care clinics. Visit our website to learn more.