More than 50 Carroll County Public Schools nurses recently received training that we hope they will never put to use. But we're certainly glad they received it.
The nurses convened at the Carroll County Career and Technology Center last week to learn about, and practice, stopping the bleeding if someone is in a life-threatening situation, the likes of which could occur in the case of a mass casualty event such as a school shooting. The presentation given by Lindsay O'Meara, a registered nurse with University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center, focused on alerting 911, identifying the location and severity of the bleeding and applying compression — using sterile gauze, a tourniquet, even a handheld T-shirt — to stop the flow of blood.
The Stop the Bleed workshop was part of a national push for better preparedness in the face of mass casualty situations. O'Meara told us the campaign was developed after a gunman fatally shot 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, nearly five years ago in the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history.
"Just as you would teach everyone to be first-aid certified, CPR certified, we would like everyone to be Stop the Bleed certified," O'Meara told us. She wasn't just talking about nurses, who have knowledge about stopping the bleeding and used the session that included working on colleagues as well as dummies mainly as a refresher and for practice in a trauma situation.
But O'Meara said that often the first person on the scene is likely to be someone who is not in the medical field who nonetheless can be the difference between life and death as an injured person waits for paramedics. Middle school principals have also received the training. Bleeding from even a major wound to the torso, such as a gunshot wound, can be effectively controlled by packing the wound with gauze, and applying pressure with your hands and holding it, O'Meara said, until emergency medical professionals arrive.
"The idea behind this is to train as many people as possible, so even classroom teachers," Carroll County Public Schools Supervisor of Health Services Filipa Gomes told us. "In case of a catastrophic event, one nurse can't take care of everybody, so the idea is to spread the knowledge and the word."
Obviously, no one wants to have to use this training —certainly no one wants to even contemplate a mass casualty event. And chances are, they will not have to deal with that type of situation. While school shootings are terrifying for parents even to think about, they are, thankfully, rare. Still, there have been at least 100 reported firearms incidents in schools across the country since Sandy Hook. Most of them end with little or no loss of life, so they aren't widely reported, but the possibility is there and tragedies do, occasionally, occur. So knowing how to handle a trauma situation, to be able to mitigate the damage and, hopefully, to save lives, is more than worthwhile.
And that training can be put to use in other situations, too, such as an injury that might occur on the playground or from broken glass or during a car accident in the parking lot.
There are a number of ways the Stop the Bleed workshop could prove valuable. As Westminster Elementary School Nurse Wendi Layne told us, "You have to be prepared."