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Immediately after the injury

Once you arrive, you may want to know about what has happened so far.

Arrival at the hospital

Most likely you or your loved one was brought to our Emergency Department by an ambulance or helicopter. The trauma staff can tell you which service brought you or your loved one to the hospital.

During the transport, the rescue crew was in radio contact with the hospital. They gave information about you or your loved one’s injuries. This allows our team at the trauma center to be ready to provide treatment as quickly as possible.

The trauma team typically includes:

  • Trauma surgeons
  • Emergency doctors
  • Registered nurses
  • Respiratory therapists
  • X-ray and CT techs
  • Social worker
  • Chaplain

The team is ready 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Also, board-certified specialty doctors are on call to help with care.

We respond to each patient based on the severity of the injury. There are two distinct levels that are identified before the patient arrives at the hospital:

  • Delta Alert patients are severely injured with unstable vital signs. EMS personnel notify the Emergency Department (ED) via telephone and our trauma team assembles in the trauma bay in the ED. Our team includes a trauma surgeon, emergency medicine physician, senior surgical resident, trauma nurses and other care providers. An operating room is immediately ready should emergency surgery be needed.
  • Echo Alert patients are seriously injured but have stable vital signs. Team members and response are modified slightly for these patients.

Initial Assessment

Trauma care at the hospital begins in the ED and includes:

  • An exam to find life-threatening injuries
  • X-rays, ultrasound and perhaps a CT scan so that doctors can better understand the extent
  • of the injuries
  • If needed, transfer to the Operating Room (OR) for surgery. An expert team staffs the OR.
  • Transfer from the admitting area, ED or OR to a unit in the hospital.

How the hospital cares for the family

Initially the patient is evaluated in the ED. Please note that the ED is under Restricted Access. While the patient is being assessed, family can’t be present in the room. A member of the medical team will keep the family and friends informed. Every attempt will be made to update the family as soon as possible.

When the family members of a trauma patient arrive at the ED, they are taken to see the patient and discuss the medical situation as soon as possible. A social worker and chaplain are always available to support you and your family. If your loved one is having a computed tomography (CT) scan or surgery, the social worker or ED staff can help you and your family locate the appropriate waiting area until the scans or surgery is completed.

Why a patient may have a different name

Sometimes the hospital does not know the name of the patient. To make sure that doctors can match the right lab and other reports with that patient, the hospital may give the person a different name. These names may be “Delta Delta” or “Tango Tango.” At VCU Medical Center, we use names that begin with the letters “TR” then add a letter of the alphabet and a word. An example would be TRNFlower.

This temporary name may have made it hard for you to locate your loved one at first. When hospital staff can be sure of your loved one’s name, they change to the real name. If the patient is a victim of crime, they may keep this temporary name. This is for safety reasons.