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Trauma Healthcare Management Needs an Upgrade! - A Passionate Student Experience

For quite a few years now, l’ve dreamed of being a doctor and whenever you tell anyone this, the question that follows is ‘oh have you thought of what specialty you want to go into?’. Lucky for them l have! Helping people in what many people would describe as their hour of need or darkest point in life, is where l feel called to be of assistance, and hence, l am looking into becoming a trauma surgeon.

Having just completed my first year of medical school, this dream is slowly becoming a reality, but l am astutely aware of the journey ahead of me. But it’s the journey leading up to this decision that l wanted to share with you.

So, some basics first, have you ever really considered what a trauma is? We usually relate the word trauma to the psyche i.e. the devastating situations in our world that leave lasting emotional responses. However, today l am referring to this definition of trauma, that which relates to the physic injury that can result in wounds, broken bones or internal organ damage (kind of like that seen on Grey’s Anatomy but real). Now that we know what trauma is lets think about what could be classified as a trauma. Well it can be anything from cutting your finger while opening one of those damned metal cans, to severe crush injuries from a motor vehicle accident and everything in between.

In Australia the Institute of Health and Welfare provide some insight into the importance of trauma medicine. For people between the ages of 1 to 44, injuries are the leading cause of death. It accounts for over 8% of the burden of disease and almost $9 billion dollars in health expenditure. Sadly in Australia the main causes of death due to injury occur by falls and suicide, and the main causes of hospitalisation encompass falls, contact with objects and transportation. If you’re a numbers person and want to explore more behind this, l've included the link for your own pleasure.

Despite all of this, l still haven’t gotten to the reason behind why l want to go into this field. Let me set the picture; you’re a parent of two amazing teenage sons, out in Bateman’s bay. Your boys have gone out with their friends on the boat and you’re expecting them home soon. You get a phone call, expecting it to be one of the boys saying they’re going to be late, but instead you have an unknown voice asking for your identity and letting you know your sons have been in a boat accident. They tell you they’ve received major burns and are being air-lifted to Sydney because that’s the nearest Trauma Centre and you now have to make the longest 4 hour trip of your life to get to the hospital. Upon arriving to the hospital you find your sons, alive, but with 3rd degree burns covering between 40-60% of their bodies. Over the next few months you and your spouse are going back and forth between the home and the hospital as your sons are going through their treatment plan. The boys on that boat were family friends l grew up with, and their parents were people l would call auntie and uncle. This true story is sadly not an isolated case, this is the story of more than 90% of families who’s loved ones have traumatic injuries that cannot be managed in regional and remote hospitals.

Did you know that 6 of our 7 Level 1 trauma centres are based in around the capital, Sydney and that the 7th is in Newcastle? To add insult to injury, most of the public hospitals in regional and remote communities are Level 3 trauma centres and don’t have the equipment needed to deal with cases like these. The reason l want to become a trauma surgeon is to change this reality. Can you imagine being in this parents situation where you weren’t able to get to your children, not within one hour, or two, or three, but it takes you four hours by car to get to them! And for many hours this commute is longer!

I believe that our trauma healthcare management needs an upgrade. With more and more people moving out regionally as the cost of living in the CBD increases astronomically we are seeing an increasing need for all healthcare professionals in these areas. I’m hoping to be part of a solution where our next 5 Level 1 trauma centres are based regionally and remotely, and they are staffed appropriately and adequately. I want to be part of the generation, that ensures families are kept together during a loved one’s darkest moments. I want to be part of the solutions that decreases the amount of people who sadly die because they couldn’t get the medical attention they needed fast enough. I want to go to work and know that l am doing everything l can for patient, with the resources they need, with their loved ones nearby, and with the time efficiency to ensure an optimal outcome.

These thoughts are not easy thoughts, and they carry a burden. However, l hope by reading this you are able to gain a new sense of appreciation for living where you do and the resources you have around you. My goal is that over the next decade of my life as l train and learn, that l gain experiences and knowledge that will allow me to see these changes happen in my lifetime.

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