Learning how to “Stop the Bleed” is something we all can do
Stop the Bleed courses, like those taught at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, teach any of us – even those without medical training – how to save some of those lives.February 23, 2023
Cathy Wilson, MSN, RN, demonstrates the use of a tourniquet as part of her “Stop the Bleed” class. Photo by Susan Urmy
Death comes in minutes to someone who has uncontrolled bleeding due to a traumatic injury, such as that caused by a gunshot or a vehicle crash.
Stop the Bleed courses, like those taught at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, teach any of us – even those without medical training – how to save some of those lives.
I decided to take the course so I could feel less helpless. I thought learning how to save lives in the midst of a crisis would be a good way to channel my anger into something positive.
The American College of Surgeons’ Stop the Bleed program was born out of lessons learned from a tragic event, the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012.
To date, the Stop the Bleed program has trained more than 2.4 million people worldwide. The goal is to train, equip and empower bystanders on how to keep life-sustaining blood inside the body until medical responders arrive on the scene. VUMC has been a leader in doing just that.
When I signed up for a VUMC Stop the Bleed course, I was struggling with the anger I have over senseless mass shootings and random acts of violence. I decided to take the course so I could feel less helpless. I thought learning how to save lives in the midst of a crisis would be a good way to channel those feelings into something positive.
Cathy Wilson, MSN, RN, outreach educator and coordinator for the Division of Acute Care Surgery, led the Stop the Bleed course I attended. Her way of clearly presenting facts opened my eyes to how incredibly important it is for bystanders, even those with little or no medical training, to act quickly if someone has uncontrolled bleeding due to a traumatic injury.
She noted that the blood loss could be because of a gunshot, car accident, a mishap on a farm or even an injury at home. The important thing is to know what to do, because uncontrolled bleeding is the No. 1 cause of preventable death after an injury, and a person can die from blood loss in just five minutes.
As I listened to Wilson talk about basic bleeding control techniques such as direct pressure, wound packing and tourniquet application, I realized there was so much I didn’t know.
For instance, I didn’t realize that if you need your hands to call 911, you can use an elbow or a knee to maintain pressure on a wound. Or if you don’t have gloves to protect yourself from blood exposure, you can grab anything nearby that will create a barrier, such as a clean garbage bag or a jacket.
As Wilson walked the class through the techniques, we practiced on a small simulation model that mimicked a bleeding wound, and in just under an hour, my anger had shifted to a sense of empowerment and competency.
Through VUMC’s Acute Care Surgery outreach, more than 7,500 people have completed a Stop the Bleed course, and Wilson and Trauma Outreach Educator Chris Brown, CCP, are on the road weekly to share the training. In addition to courses offered at the Medical Center, courses have been taught at public and private schools, churches and other sites in the community where the training has been requested.
In 2023, the outreach team will provide even more Stop the Bleed instruction at area schools. Metro Nashville Public Schools officials plan to have 10 individuals from each of the district’s 165 schools trained to serve as immediate response teams, with additional staff trained in the future.
When the outreach team received a $50,000 grant from the Tennessee Highland Rim Health Care Coalition, they used the money to put together Stop the Bleed kits filled with the essentials needed to provide immediate first aid for uncontrolled bleeding – sterile gauze, gloves, a tourniquet and a marker to record the time a tourniquet is applied.
They’ve given the kits to school nurses and school bus drivers and placed kits where large crowds gather in Nashville such as the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, Music City Center, First Tennessee Park, Bridgestone Arena and Ascend Amphitheater. At these public spaces, the Stop the Bleed kits are typically found where automated external defibrillators (AEDs) are stored, near a fire extinguisher or at key points of entry for easy access.
I’ve come to realize I’ll never stop being angry about senseless attacks that result in mass trauma and death. But I’m now ready to respond and stop the bleed if I’m a witness to serious trauma, no matter what the cause. Maybe you can get ready, too?
Order Stop the Bleed kits for your family (find them at www.stopthebleed.org or at online retail sites such as Amazon).
For more information on scheduling a Stop the Bleed course for your work group, contact Cathy Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org.