Stop the Bleed: Training Bystanders to Be Prepared in a Crisis

Posted on Tue, Jan 17, 2017
Stop the Bleed: Training Bystanders to Be Prepared in a Crisis

By Stephen Flaherty, MD

A person who is bleeding can die from blood loss in less than five minutes.

As a trauma surgeon, it’s important for me to be involved in all aspects of care of injured patients. This starts with injury prevention and severity mitigation, and extends through pre-hospital care, acute care and rehabilitation.

I recently became an instructor for “Stop the Bleed," a federal campaign to train non-clinical bystanders how to take simple steps in mass casualty situations to save lives. The program was created in response to recent mass shootings and empowers bystanders to act as immediate responders by providing public access to bleeding control tools already used by first responders and the military. Often times victims die from bleeding that could potentially be stopped before EMS providers are able to reach the victim.

I got involved with the initiative because several of my colleagues were members of the working group that developed the program. We had worked together in the military developing a combat casualty care doctrine and the Department of Defense Joint Trauma System. Stop the Bleed is an example of military-civilian integration directly applied to the active shooter situation.

Training involves a two-hour class: a lecture that provides an overview of the concepts being taught and a hands-on session for practical experience in applying a tourniquet and packing a wound. There is no exam.

I’ve personally trained more than 70 people. Through my initiative, the El Paso Border Regional Advisory Council (RAC) has championed the course. Under its guidance, more than 400 people were trained in 2016, including El Paso ISD safety officers, Sun Bowl event staff, police officers and teachers. This year, I’m working to bring this course to Middlebury College in Vermont, where my son Colin is a freshman.

It’s unbelievably rewarding to empower citizens to be able to react calmly and competently in terrorist attacks, active shooter situations, like Pulse Night Club shootings in Orlando, and even motor vehicle accidents. We teach people how to differentiate life-threatening arterial bleeding from venous or capillary bleeding and then we help them practice placing a tourniquet or pack a large wound. We also talk to people about the difference between a compressible site, (arm or leg), a junctional site (neck, axilla, groin) and the non-compressible sites of the chest or abdomen. It buys time for victims until first responders can get to the scene – and those are valuable minutes.

I believe we can make great strides in reducing morbidity and mortality due to injury by improving care prior to arrival at the hospital. The goal is zero preventable deaths.

Stephen Flaherty, MD, FACS, is the trauma medical director at Del Sol Medical Center in El Paso, Texas, and a regional medical director in the surgical services division of EmCare. He earned his bachelor’s degree and medical degree from Tufts University, Boston. He completed a fellowship in trauma/critical care at Boston University Medical Center and a residency in general surgery at Eisenhower Army Medical Center, Fort Gordon, Ga. He achieved the rank of colonel in the United States Army and was deployed on several military combat rotations before retiring in 2010.

Scott Serbin
Dr. Flaherty is an excellent educator and his commitment to this program and to the El Paso community is just another example of our Acute Care Surgery Division's commitment to the communities we serve.
1/17/2017 9:17:21 AM