Trauma Care Shouldn’t Be Traumatic

By Stacey Knott, Penrose-St Francis Health Services

On a dark, moonless winter night, a baby-boomer couple in a mid-size sedan is traveling briskly down a black ribbon of road. The grandparents are in a hurry to get to their daughter’s house to baby sit the grandchildren. But unknown to the driver, a patch of vicious black ice waits for them ahead on a foggy, hard curve in the road…

No one wants or plans to be in a traumatic accident, but if you or your loved ones face that “curve in the road,” the Trauma Services team at Penrose-St Francis Health Services is ready to provide award-winning, premier healthcare.

“Trauma care starts when the patient arrives in the emergency department and ends when the patient is discharged,” said John Gentzel, Penrose-St Francis Trauma Services program manager and nurse. “The ever-present goal is to return the individual back to an optimal state of health and well-being.”

According to the University of California San Diego Medical Center Regional Trauma Center, “one out of every three people will be either directly or indirectly affected by trauma. A trauma is any life-threatening occurrence, either accidental or intentional, that causes injuries. The leading causes of trauma are motor vehicle accidents, falls, and assaults.”

Penrose Hospital, a Level II trauma unit located at 2222 North Nevada Avenue, and the new St. Francis Medical Center, a Level IV trauma unit located at 6001 East Woodmen Road, are an integral part of the Colorado Springs trauma network.

Patients arrive in a variety of ways; either as a walk-in arriving by personal vehicle, by ambulance, or for the most critical patients, by Flight For Life helicopter. But that’s just the beginning of their trauma journey.

Starting in the ER, Penrose-St Francis offers round-the-clock emergency physicians who are trained in advanced trauma care and support. The nursing staff is well trained with advanced cardiac and pediatric life support and trauma nurse certifications. When patients arrive in the ER, they are assessed for trauma and may need further tests to determine the extent of their injuries. Penrose-St Francis’ Imaging Department provides an internal picture of the patient through state-of-the-art equipment with 64-slice computed tomography and ultrasound equipment.

The hospital’s Laboratory offers a full complement of diagnostic services, and the Blood Bank quickly draws and processes blood with little need to rely on outside resources. These in-house services mean quicker diagnosis and treatment for the patient. “Trauma surgeons, neurosurgeons, orthopedic surgeons, spine surgeons, maxilla-facial/plastics, and hand surgeons all come into play if the patient condition warrants their services,” Gentzel explained.

Once patients go through the ED, they may need to be hospitalized for observation or further treatment. Critical patients may be admitted into the critical care unit where nurses average 15 years of experience each, and intensivists, Hospitalists, and infectious disease physicians are all available as needed.

Trauma Department staff members visit patients daily to aid in their care. Additionally, occupational, physical and speech therapists, Nutrition Services, Spiritual Care, and Palliative Services are all at the disposal of the Trauma Department to help in the patient’s recovery.

“Seniors comprise a large population of who we care for,” Gentzel said. “The most common injury for seniors is a fractured hip from a fall. We continuously review our data and literature to monitor any trends in injury patterns and alert our physicians to be on the look out for related complications.”

Penrose-St Francis Trauma Services also offers injury prevention classes to seniors in the community to help keep them healthy and injury-free. For people interested in the seniors’ injury prevention classes, please contact Beth Cotter at 776-5098. For more information on Penrose-St Francis’ Trauma Services, visit the website at

Award-Winning Services

Nationwide, Penrose-St Francis has ranked among the Top 10% for Critical Care Services for four consecutive years, 2006-2009

Penrose-St Francis has been five-star rated by HealthGrades for:

Coronary Interventional Procedures in 2009

Treatment of Heart Failure – 7 years in a row, 2003-2009

Overall Critical Care – 4 years in a row, 2006-2009

Treatment of Stroke – 4 years in a row, 2006-2009

Penrose-St Francis is a United Healthcare Premium Cardiac Specialty Centers for Interventional Cardiac Care, HealthGrades’ the Best Hospital in Colorado for Overall Critical Care, and among the top five hospitals in Colorado for Overall Cardiac Services.