U.S. Marines carry a comrade wounded by an improvised explosive device (IED)

How the Marines Can Save Small Towns from Trauma

Rural Living – Risky Living

People who live in large urban areas are usually no more than a few minutes away from a hospital that is capable of providing advanced trauma care. People living in rural areas are not so lucky. Even if the nearest trauma center has access to a helicopter, the time it takes time for the helicopter to make it out to the site, load the patient, and then return to the trauma center typically exceeds the 60 minute mark. In fact, several studies have shown that the use of helicopters in trauma care has no effect on a patient’s chances of survival.

What is a Trauma Center?

Trauma centers are establishments that can provide a variety of emergency care that can save the lives of people involved in accidents. In the United States, trauma centers are designated by the American College of Surgeons as being either a Level 1, 2, 3, or 4 depending on the level of care the center is able to provide. Typically the difference between a Level 1 Trauma Center (the highest level of care – typically a large academic medical center) and a Level 4 (small rural hospital) is not the medical equipment available, but access to physicians trained to provide emergency care. Doctors with the training to treat accident victims are in short supply and are usually not found in small towns.

Marines to the Rescue

The marines train and work in all parts of the globe -the majority of which are not situated near a fully staffed trauma center. Historically, a platoon of marines always traveled with a Battalion Aid Station (BAS) which was able to provide a minimum of emergency care. Transportation of an injured Marine to a trauma unit typically takes an hour or longer.

In response to this gap in care, the Marines, in conjunction with the Navy, have developed a Shock Trauma Platoon Center (STP) which can travel in the field. The STP is outfitted with the essential equipment needed in trauma care. Most importantly, however, the non-physician Navy corpsmen are trained to perform several advanced care techniques including opening airways, performing minor surgeries and treating heat injuries, to name but a few.

U.S. Navy corpsmen erect a tent for a shock trauma platoon aid station during the Amphibious Landing Exercise

U.S. Navy corpsmen erect a tent for a shock trauma platoon aid station during an Amphibious Landing Exercise.

STP Corpsmen Training

U.S. Navy corpsmen instruct a Filipino Corpsman during a bilateral combat life-saver course as part of an Amphibious Landing Exercise.

Application to Civilians

First responders, nurses, and other non-physician care providers are not trained (or allowed) to provide the same type of care that the corpsmen provide in an STP. In small towns and rural areas, however, this type of training would allow healthcare providers to more easily provide advance trauma life support, increasing a patient’s chance of survival from the point of injury.

Leave it to the Marines to find ways to protect us – even from halfway around the world.

Richard Buchler is a board certified healthcare executive and managing director of Trauma Ready. He lives in Chicago, IL.