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The next level: Kids' trauma center hits important new high

April 09, 2019
Dr. Meryle Eklund, Dr. Christian J. Streck,  Aynsley Birkner, Madeline Gehrig, RN NPDF,  Jennifer Waterhouse, NP
The pediatric trauma team includes Dr. Meryle Eklund, Dr. Chris Streck, injury prevention coordinator Aynsley Birkner, nurse Madeline Gehrig and nurse practitioner Jennifer Waterhouse. Photo by Sarah Pack

The trauma center at MUSC Children’s Health has become the only kids’ trauma center in the state to achieve Level 1 verification from the American College of Surgeons. That’s the highest possible level.

Surgeon Chris Streck directs the pediatric trauma medical program at the Medical University of South Carolina and serves as a professor of surgery and pediatrics. “The main factors that distinguish Level 1 pediatric trauma centers are volume and quality of patient care. That includes 24/7 coverage by specialists including pediatric trauma surgeons, neurosurgeons, orthopedic surgeons, emergency medicine providers, anesthesiologists, child abuse treatment experts and intensive care unit providers. Injury prevention outreach and quality and volume of research are also major factors.”

Nurse Madeline Gehrig manages the trauma program at MUSC Children’s Health. “What this verification means to our patients and their families is the assurance that they are receiving safe, innovative, and high-quality care from some of the most knowledgeable and skilled medical providers in the industry.”

Streck said the trauma center team cares for kids hurt in major accidents or events. “The most common severe mechanisms of trauma that we care for are motor vehicle collisions, pedestrians and bicyclists struck by automobiles, falls from a height, bicycle- and golf cart-related injuries, gun and knife-related trauma, burns and child abuse.”

MUSC Children’s Health was first named a pediatric Level 1 trauma center several years ago by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. Then, DHEC started requiring hospitals to meet even higher standards set by the American College of Surgeons to keep their designations, which MUSC Children’s Health has now done. It’s one of just 59 Level 1 pediatric trauma centers in the country.

Gehrig said a team of reviewers from the American College of Surgeons visited MUSC Children’s Health to review its patient care and quality improvement efforts before verifying its Level 1 status. “The process included evaluating our injury prevention and outreach efforts; our care management through an extensive chart review interviewing leaders, doctors, nurses and other care team providers; and touring the trauma center to evaluate the resources available for injured children.” 

Streck said that unfortunately, more than 90 percent of children hurt in the United States aren’t taken to trauma centers, at least not initially. “In trauma care, we refer to the golden hour, where early intervention can really make a difference.”

In other words, the earlier a trauma patient gets expert care, the better the chance of survival. “The pediatric trauma center at MUSC Children’s Health benefits children across the Lowcountry. We also get transfers of severely injured children from across the eastern half of South Carolina,” Streck said. “Having a high-level trauma center is like having good community amenities like parks, roads, schools and libraries where you may not inherently recognize their daily value until you need the resource, and then it’s very meaningful.”

MUSC Children’s Health will open a new hospital in about six months. Streck said it will offer more state-of-the art options for trauma patients and their families “Our new facility’s infrastructure will match the high level of care that we provide to kids. This is a win for everyone in the community.”

About the Author

Helen Adams

Keywords: Pediatrics