Trauma Center Certification

St. Patrick Hospital is verified as a Level II Trauma Center by the American College of Surgeons and is designated as a regional trauma center by the state of Montana. As a Level II Trauma center we can assure:

  • A team of highly trained specialists in the area of critical care
  • A trauma physician assistant to follow each in-patient and oversee the efforts of all specialists to ensure a comprehensive approach
  • Daily and weekly trauma team meetings for all specialists including trauma surgeon, neurosurgeons, orthopedics, OT, PT, dietician, speech pathologist, social worker and rehab physician to identify the upcoming needs for each trauma patient
  • Involvement in local, regional, state and national trauma committees
  • Provision and support of quality trauma education for physicians, mid-levels, RNs and EMS personnel
  • Daily monitoring of patients admitted to our trauma service
  • Rigorous internal performance improvement and peer review

Who is a Trauma Patient?

The trauma patient is injured due to some external cause – a motor vehicle accident, a fall or a gunshot wound, for example. This patient arrives in the Emergency Department with a different set of needs than does someone who is critically ill; for example, someone having a heart attack. The medical response required to meet the needs of the trauma patient is complex.

Since the response is specialized and must be delivered quickly, trauma patients are best served when they are cared for in a hospital that has made a commitment to specialize in their care – a trauma center. Studies have shown that injured patients cared for in trauma centers have a mortality rate 25 percent lower than injured patients cared for in hospitals that are not trauma centers.

In Montana, trauma is the number one killer of people aged 1 to 44. And for every death, up to 10 people are permanently disabled by their injuries.

How Can a Trauma Center Help Me?

Many of the injured patients cared for at Level II Trauma Centers are initially treated at a smaller, outlying facility. Once the patient arrives at the Trauma Center, he or she is met by the trauma team – an emergency room at the ready with a trauma surgeon and specialists such as neurosurgeons, and the surgical team at the ready in the operating room.

Even at 3 a.m., if it appears the patient is seriously injured, the team is ready within 15 minutes. The team will quickly provide the treatments to stabilize the patient. Many of these patients will need emergency surgery and/or admittance to the Intensive Care Unit.

How Many Levels of Trauma Centers Are There?

There are different levels of Trauma Centers, classified by their adherence to rigorous standards of patient care. Montana hospitals have been verified by a national group, the American College of Surgeons (ACS). Level I Centers are the highest-level classification. These are teaching and research facilities in large cities, and require all specialists to be available in the hospital 24 hours a day. The three closest Level I Trauma Centers are Billings Clinic, Harborview Medical Center in Seattle and the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.

The next highest level is Level II. Specialists in these Centers have committed to responding to the ER within 15 minutes of being called for trauma patients. There are two Level II Centers in Montana:

  • St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula
  • St. Vincent Healthcare in Billings

There are three Level III Centers – Bozeman Deaconess, Logan Health in Kalispell and St. James in Butte. These Centers may not have specialists who are available to respond within 30 minutes of being called.

What Else Do Trauma Centers Do?

Level II Trauma Centers also participate in Injury Prevention programs that aim to keep people from being injured in the first place. Most traumas are avoidable by driving safely and by wearing helmets while riding bicycles, motorcycles, horses or ATVs.

In order for the critically injured patient to receive the best care and the best chance of survival, the entire system must function well. Dispatch, EMS and the hospitals must work together. The goal is to get injured patients to the right place in the right amount of time.