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Team effort key to successful response to bus collision in Georgetown County

Health

Team effort key to successful response to bus collision in Georgetown County

Maya Meyers, a clinical director at Tidelands Georgetown Memorial Hospital, was enjoying a leisurely day off work, sipping her cup of coffee and looking forward to a little pampering with a facial scheduled later in the day.
But then the text came out of the blue, around 8:20 a.m. on Saturday, June 19.
A collision in Georgetown County involving an SUV and a Williamsburg County transit bus carrying 35 passengers was being called a mass casualty event. An unknown number of patients was on the way to the emergency department at Tidelands Georgetown, and extra help was needed. Even though she doesn’t normally work in the ER, could she come pitch in?
“Oh yes, absolutely,” Meyers responded with zero hesitation. “Give me like 20 minutes.”
The nurse of more than 16 years sprang into action. She quickly pulled her hair back, put on her uniform and arrived at the hospital 20 minutes later, asking, “What do you need me to do?”

Team effort

While health care professionals are trained and experienced in responding at a moment’s notice, a mass casualty event as serious as the one June 19 isn’t a regular occurrence – it had been years since Tidelands Georgetown responded to an accident of that size and scope.
But the team was prepared. Tidelands Georgetown team members regularly participate in mass casualty drills with Georgetown County and other agencies to help make sure the hospital is ready. By coincidence, several emergency department professionals had just been recertified by the Emergency Nurses Association in trauma nurse curriculum over two days of intense, hands-on training just two weeks prior.
That Saturday, 17 patients from the accident arrived at the emergency department at the same time, even as team members were also treating other patients needing emergency care, including one experiencing a stroke and another showing signs of a heart attack.
“This bolus of seriously injured patients could have overwhelmed the emergency department, but the dedicated, experienced nursing staff organized a mass casualty triage system, and the support supplied by multiple staff members from all over the hospital rose to the occasion,” says Dr. John Manning, who was working in the ER. “This was a true team effort, and the team deserves recognition and our gratitude.”

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ER leaders Wendi Kobylarz and Jessica Hewitt were both off work June 19 but made it to the emergency department in a matter of minutes after being alerted of the accident. They recruited help from personnel across multiple departments – including additional nurses, radiologists to help quickly process X-rays and security officers, who reserved a private area for relatives of the crash victims to gather.
Team members – even those off work – showed up on their own to lend a hand after hearing about the accident from news outlets.
“I’m the type of person I feel like I have 24/7 responsibility for my unit,” Kobylarz says. “I just need to support my team and be here for the patients and the community. The biggest thing you have to do is control the chaos.”

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Meyers helped take blood pressure readings and other vital signs while calming the nerves of patients shaken by their involvement in the fatal crash, in which three people lost their lives.
“It kind of comes naturally to you,” Meyers says. “I was just doing whatever needed to be done. It’s the right thing to do for patients and for my colleagues.”
After several hours of assessment and treatment, most of the patients – 14 of the 17 – were treated and released. Two were transferred, and one succumbed to injuries.
In all, the emergency department saw 85 patients that day, about 10 to 15 more than on an average day. And the 17 from the accident arrived at once – something the team doesn’t encounter regularly.
“Everybody did a wonderful job,” Kobylarz says. “We worked together as a team across several departments, and that team jelled well together.”

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