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Stop the bleed, save a life

Seneca High School

Kentucky School Advocate
October 2021

By Adam Haley
Guest contributor

In many cases, traumatic bleeding is a preventable cause of death. The ability to recognize life-threatening bleeding and knowing how to intervene can save a life. Whether the injury was a result of a mass shooting or a home accident, one person who is present at the right time and has the right skills can make all the difference. The “immediate responder” on the scene of a traumatic injury may not always be a trained medical provider but they may be able to use life-saving measures to dramatically improve outcomes during such incidents.

The Society of Trauma Nurses (STN), working with other organizations, is making the training needed to address such incidents available to the public. STN has partnered with the American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma (ACS-COT) and the Department of Homeland Security to promote Stop the Bleed, a program that teaches the public how to recognize life-threatening bleeding and act quickly and effectively to control bleeding.

The program was borne out of a working group brought together by the ACS-COT in the wake of the 2012 Sandy Hook shootings and a series of policy recommendations known as “The Hartford Consensus” emphasizing the need for early hemorrhage control to reduce death from traumatic injuries.

During the 2020 Kentucky General Assembly, Rep. Melinda Gibbons-Prunty, R-Greenville, introduced House Resolution 130 to encourage local school districts to provide bleeding control training to staff and install kits in their schools.

Rep. Melinda Gibbons-Prunty reads the resolution encouraging schools to provide bleeding control training to staff on the House floor in March 2020. 

Following the best practices adopted in other states, Gibbons-Prunty encouraged administrators to implement these programs with support from businesses, nonprofits and faith-based organizations.“As legislators we are always mindful of putting in place unfunded mandates on our schools,” Gibbons-Prunty said. “Fortunately, there are community partners across the commonwealth who are ready, willing and able to help train our educators in these life-saving skills.”

Existing Kentucky statutes allow for private support of these programs, and some school districts have taken advantage of these tools to implement Stop the Bleed training.

Bringing the training to schools
Two districts in Henry County have led the way on getting equipment placed in all its schools. Two organizations, the North Central District Health Department and Healthcare Emergency Response Association, donated kits to the districts along with the supplies to conduct trainings.

“In Henry County, and many rural counties, our first responders may not be able to respond as quickly. If your local ambulance provider is on a run during a mass casualty incident, they may not be available at the time either,” said Mike Hilliard, Henry County deputy director of emergency management. “While there is no replacement for our first responders, empowering our staff and students to act as ‘immediate responders’ will help to save lives.”

Close collaboration is required with local school systems to make the program successful, he said.

Trauma Program Director Kim Denzik, MSN, RN, teaches the public how to make an improvised tourniquet during the 2018 Kentucky State Fair. 

“Henry County Public Schools, in addition to Eminence Independent Schools, have placed bleeding control stations in all of their schools,” Hilliard said. “We were able to solicit contributions to the Eminence Education Foundation, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, using commercially available fundraising platforms with the intent to purchase future training materials needed for Stop the Bleed classes.”As part of their mission, trauma systems in Kentucky engage in local injury prevention programs, including Stop the Bleed. The trauma team at the University of Louisville has been providing hands-on trainings, bringing the supplies and certified instructors to businesses and community organizations.

“We all hope to never witness or be involved in a mass casualty event but, in our current society, any public space unfortunately has that potential,” said Dr. Brian G. Harbrecht, trauma program medical director at U of L Hospital, a Level I trauma center. “Stop the Bleed is a program that can teach the public several simple, useful techniques for controlling potentially life-threatening bleeding in the event of an emergency. We hope it is never needed but getting the equipment and training into schools, onto college campuses, and in public gathering spaces can help save lives in the event of an emergency. It is very similar to teaching bystanders CPR and we have all seen how useful that has become.”      

Safer schools  
Adding bleeding control to the techniques taught along with CPR and basic first aid can better equip civilians to help save a life. Oct. 17-23 is Safe Schools Week in Kentucky and is an ideal time integrate Stop the Bleed training into existing first aid training. The National School Safety Center encourages school administrators to work with community leaders and service groups to advance policies that increase student safety.

According to a study published in the American College of Surgeons, only 36 percent of those surveyed felt comfortable applying a tourniquet, fearing damage to a patient’s limb. However, experience from the wars in Afghanistan and in Iraq show that the benefits of training far outweigh the risks. The better prepared the general public is for such events, the more likely the chance of reducing or eliminating preventable death by bleeding.

What is ‘Stop The Bleed?’
• A 60 to 90-minute course.
• Formal slide presentation and hands-on practice of life saving skills.
• Developed for a non-medical audience to address the skill needs of an “immediate responder.”
• Aims to control life-threatening bleeding until help arrives.
• Covers use of direct pressure to control bleeding.
• Explains function and use of advanced tools (tourniquet and wound packing materials) when available.

Adam Haley is the director of public policy at the Society of Trauma Nurses, a Frankfort-based nonprofit whose mission is to ensure optimal trauma care to all people locally, regionally, nationally and globally through initiatives focused on trauma nurses related to prevention, education and collaboration with other healthcare disciplines.

For more information on Stop the Bleed training or to learn about getting bleeding control stations for your schools, contact Adam Haley at [email protected]

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