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Trauma Training in Europe and the Rewards of Teaching

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Like many of you, I have spent a considerable part (if not the majority) of my career teaching. In my new position with the American College of Surgeons I don t have many opportunities to teach, so I jumped at the chance to teach some PHTLS courses in Europe this summer. I once again experienced the joy of teaching and the potential for personal growth through shared classroom experiences between faculty and participants.

New PHTLS Programs in Europe

I joined the faculty on the first PHTLS courses conducted in Poland in July (see photos of faculty and students from courses in Krakow and Warsaw). Along with Dr. Jeffrey Guy from Vanderbilt University in Nashville and August Bamonti from Prairie State College in Chicago Heights, we spent a week working with physicians, nurses and prehospital care personnel from all over Poland in courses we conducted in Warsaw and Krakow. As you might expect, the teaching part was rewarding; however, the exchanged experiences between faculty and students and the opportunity to watch the new instructors we trained apply their skills proved a learning experience for us as well. I ve never conducted a course like this without learning as much as I ve taught.

We conducted the first courses in Germany near Frankfurt this month and the first course taught by German faculty will be in Berlin in October. The program will launch in Lithuania in November. Information about the new faculty in both Poland and Germany can be found at www.phtls.org .

These recent teaching opportunities got me thinking about teaching, why we do it and what we hope comes of it.

How Did You Get Started Teaching?

Like most of you, I got started teaching by assisting in skill demonstrations during EMT courses. I looked at it as an opportunity to practice and review skills seldom used in preparation for the courses. Over time, the program coordinators asked me to pick up a lecture here and there. This, too, presented an opportunity to strengthen my own skills as I prepared for the lectures. The more I taught, the more confident I became in my comprehension of the material. In turn, I am sure my practice improved.

So, in my case, enhanced confidence in my own practice drew me to teaching. Soon though, I found that teaching provided broad personal fulfillment. Eventually, I became a full-time teacher.

The Joy of It

If you ask anyone why they teach you ll undoubtedly get responses that describe Eureka! moments. Teachers find joy in seeing that look of clarity as a student grasps a concept or succeeds at a skill. There s also the thrill of discovery. Exposed to a variety of teachers and students, you can t help but learn from everyone you re exposed to. These experiences broaden every aspect of you professionally communication skills, physical skills, all of it. We become a conglomeration of our experiences, and the classroom provides exposure to much more than we would typically encounter during an average work day.

What about the Patients?

All of the things I ve mentioned are definitely benefits, but what about the best reason to teach? What about improving care and, by doing so, improving patient outcomes? Certainly that is at the core of what we hope our classes achieve. Can we make a difference?

Teaching Saves Lives

Studies show improved patient outcomes following training of one kind or another. Dr. Jameel Ali conducted some studies in Trinidad/Tobago looking at ATLS and PHTLS training. In the PHTLS study, he looked at skill compliances and patient outcomes prior to and following Prehospital Trauma Life Support training. In the study, he showed significant improvement in skill compliances and a 30% improvement in patient outcomes. (A link to the abstract of the study published in the Journal of Trauma is available at www.phtls.org )

Cause & Effect

While flying back from working on these courses in Europe, I remembered something that Dr. Ali said during the first annual Scott Frame Memorial Lecture he delivered several years ago. In it he tried to describe the potential effect of showing people lifesaving techniques. While not scientific, it is interesting to consider.

In essence, Ali said that assuming each instructor teaches 16 students per course for four courses in four years which is 64 students trained. If each of these students saves five lives per year it adds up to 320 lives saved per year. Over four years, that s 1,280 lives saved. Of course, if you train instructors as well, it could, theoretically, result in another 1,280 lives saved per instructor.

As I said, this is not a scientific description but it does make a point. If you do your job well and reach as many people as possible, many lives can be saved, and the impact of your efforts can be huge. On that thought, Kudos to all of you who train people in the use of lifesaving skills all over the world. Along with our patients, we all benefit.

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