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What is a Level One Trauma Center and why does it matter to your family?

May 08, 2018

Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children is home to the only Pediatric Emergency Department and Level One Trauma Center in Central Florida. 

That sounds impressive, but what does it mean exactly? And more importantly, what difference does it make in the life of your family? 

We’ve already shared with you why it’s imperative to choose a specialized pediatric emergency department for your children when they need emergency care. Today we’ll discuss what it means to have a Level One Trauma Center for children in our local community and why you should seek a Level One Trauma Center for your child in the event of accident or injury. 

All hospitals are not created equal

Healthcare institutions aren’t all the same. It matters where you choose to be cared for in your most vulnerable moments and never more so than when an accident or injury occurs. 

When it comes to children, the stakes are even higher because children aren’t just small adults; they have very specific healthcare needs. When children need emergency medical treatment they need specialized equipment suited to their size, expert medical providers who are experienced in treating children, medications tailored for their growing bodies, and many other special considerations. 

However, as a parent trying to make the best decision for your kids it becomes really difficult to discern which healthcare entity truly offers the best care because healthcare marketing and messaging get all mixed up with the facts. That’s why there are certain designations in healthcare that help you as the consumer separate fact from fiction, and the Level One Trauma designation is one of the those. 

What is a Level One Trauma Center?

A trauma center is a hospital that is equipped and staffed to treat major traumatic injuries such as burns, wounds, injuries from car accidents, drownings, and falls among many others. 

Hospitals that are designated a trauma center by state and local authorities are evaluated every three years by the American College of Surgeons, and they are assigned a status based on the services they offer. Level One is the highest designation available. 

According to the American Trauma Society, “A Level One Trauma Center is capable of providing total care for every aspect of injury – from prevention through rehabilitation.”

This differs from other healthcare facilities because hospitals that are not Level One Trauma Centers are not required to have the same resources in staffing or the variety of specialists available to treat every aspect of the patient’s injury. They also may not have round-the-clock access to these specialists (which is very important if an injury were to occur after normal business hours, on the weekend or during a holiday). 

Level One Trauma Center criteria vary somewhat from state to state, but commonly include these elements, according to the American Trauma Society:

  • 24-hour in-house coverage by general surgeons, and prompt availability of care in specialties such as orthopedic surgery, neurosurgery, anesthesiology, emergency medicine, radiology, internal medicine, plastic surgery, oral and maxillofacial, pediatric and critical care.
  • Referral resource for communities in nearby regions.
  • Provides leadership in prevention, public education to surrounding communities.
  • Provides continuing education of the trauma team members.
  • Incorporates a comprehensive quality assessment program.
  • Operates an organized teaching and research effort to help direct new innovations in trauma care.
  • Program for substance abuse screening and patient intervention.
  • Meets minimum requirement for annual volume of severely injured patients.

What does it mean for your family?

We hope and pray that our children never require trauma care, but sometimes unfortunate accidents and injuries do occur. As parents, we must do our best to prevent injuries while also preparing for things that may happen that are outside of our control. 

As a partner with you in raising healthier kids, Arnold Palmer Hospital continually offers expert advice about preventing injuries, such as

It’s important, though, that in addition to preventing injuries you make a plan for your family in case the unthinkable occurs. 

Where will you go if your child is injured? 

In evaluating where to seek the best medical care for my children in an emergency, I look at a few criteria:

  • Which facilities are capable of treating the most severe injuries?
  • Where are patients often transferred to receive more intensive care?
  • Where can I find experts in any and all of the specialty services I may need?
  • What facilities treat these types of patients most often, making them more experienced and capable?

Furthermore, I consider that in an emergency situation it’s not always possible for a caregiver such as myself to determine whether an injury is serious or not. It is prudent to seek care in a hospital that is equipped and experienced in treating every type of injury, no matter how severe. 

I also know that if my child were injured and needed a specialist (say, for example a pediatric neurosurgeon to evaluate a head injury) I would prefer to have access to this expertise on site, right away, instead of requiring transfer to another hospital, wasting precious time that could negatively impact my child’s treatment. 

That’s why on every school form, summer camp registration and medical questionnaire, I specify that in case of emergency my children should be taken to Arnold Palmer Hospital. 

I want the best for them, and in the case of a traumatic injury, a Pediatric Level One Trauma Center is the best. 

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