Trauma Center at Valley Medical Center Turns 30

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Santa Clara County, CA – We’ve all watched the nurses and physicians from "ER" to “Code Black” as they care for patients. The stories of people being brought in with multiple injuries from automobile crashes are some of the most compelling. 

Santa Clara Valley Medical Center has followed its mission to “provide care to the ill and injured of Santa Clara County” since it was founded in 1886. But it was 30 years ago this week that the hospital was officially designated a Level 1 Trauma Center. 

There were a total of 9 patients the first night at the new trauma center, with 6 of them from car crashes. Today, the Trauma Center responds to as many as 20 trauma alerts over a 24 hour period.

“I was working at SCVMC when we were first designated as a trauma center and I’ve seen many changes over the years,” commented Dr. John Sherck, trauma surgeon and former trauma director. “One thing that has not changed is the expertise and quality of our staff and their dedication to saving lives.” 

Television shows provide us a glimpse into the hectic environment of a trauma center. In daily life, these healthcare professionals deal with multiple challenges and realize amazing rewards.

“We save lives, that’s what we do,” said Dr. Adella Garland, Medical Director of the Trauma Center. “Because of the range of services and specialty care this hospital provides, we also help patients realize the best outcomes possible.”

Today, the Trauma Center has state-of-art technology to treat the most complex cases. From using advanced diagnostic imaging to accessing electronic health records to innovative internal communications, technology supports SCVMC medical professionals in saving lives. 

Santa Clara Valley Medical Center (SCVMC) was ahead of the national curve when it opened its trauma center in February, 1986. Since 1988 the number of states with trauma systems expanded from 2 to 35. Many studies have shown the value of trauma systems improving patient outcomes and reducing unnecessary death and disability.

The Trauma Center at SCVMC is equipped and staffed 24/7 to provide immediate care for patients suffering from life-threatening traumatic injuries. In the United States, a verified trauma center meets specific criteria established by the American College of Surgeons and passes a site review. Trauma centers vary in their capabilities and are identified by "Level" designation: Level-I (Level-1) being the highest, to Level-IV (Level-4) being the lowest. The Trauma Center at SCVMC is designated a Level 1 center.

“Employees are an organization’s greatest asset. Our Trauma Center’s doctors, nurses and support staff demonstrate excellence and dedication every single day,” stated Paul Lorenz, CEO, Santa Clara Valley Medical Center. “I am proud of the services they provide and congratulate them on this momentous anniversary.”

The highest levels of trauma centers have immediate access to specialist medical and nursing care including emergency medicine, trauma surgery, critical care, neurosurgery, orthopedic surgery, anesthesiology, pediatrics, and radiology. The Trauma Center at SCVMC also has access to specialists in burn injury, traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injury. The hospital is also equipped with a helipad. 

For your information:

What is a trauma?

The American Trauma Society defines it as "an injury caused by physical force, most often as a consequence of motor vehicle crashes, falls, drowning, gun shots, fires and burns, stabbing or blunt assault."

What is the difference between an emergency department and trauma center?

The emergency department or ED, is where people go when they need emergency assistance. EDs can handle anything from sprained ankles to heart attacks and strokes. They have the facilities, doctors and expertise to handle almost everything that comes their way.

A Trauma Center is a hospital which has dedicated resources to provide immediate and comprehensive care to all injured patients from the moment they arrive in the Emergency Department until they are admitted or discharged. Highly-specialized surgeons, nurses and support staff work with the most advanced equipment to increase the chances of survival for patients with complex and life-threatening injuries.

How are Trauma Centers designated?

The American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma verifies that a hospital has met their rigorous criteria as a trauma center.

The Santa Clara County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Agency designates a hospital as a trauma center and to receive injured patients by ambulance. The EMS Agency in Santa Clara County has chosen to designate only those hospitals which are verified by the American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma.​​​