By P.J. Papadakos, MD, FCCM, FAARC, Director Critical Care Medicine University of Rochester and police surgeon for the New York State Police
It should be the goal of every neurocritical care unit to provide community health education in conditions such as stroke and traumatic brain injury. One of the most successful ways to reach this goal is to partner and work closely with first responders in your city or town. First responders have a long history of being at the forefront of community education at schools, religious centers, community centers, health fairs and county fairs. They also are actively involved in helmet and car seat education days at shopping malls. The neurocritical care staff can bring much to these agencies and their educational programs in the community by providing experts that can work with them at these events.
First and foremost, we can provide excellent educators that should participate as faculty at EMT and paramedic courses. We also can give seminars to firefighters and law enforcement agencies on key neurological topics that they cover in their educational programs. We can aid both as lecturers on neurologic topics and participate in hands-on workshops to teach the neurologic physical exam. Our pharmacology colleagues are in high demand to review neuropharmacology for epilepsy and sedation modules. By participating in the education of first responders, you will build bridges for developing joint education programs for your community.
We can join them in giving programs to highlight the need of proper helmet use to prevent head trauma and promote safe biking. This has become more important as cities and towns are developing bike lanes and promoting biking for both health benefits and for the environment. More and more cities now have bike sharing apps and bike sharing stands. This means that more people are using bikes and may not have a helmet thus increasing the risk of head injury. We also need to partner with our colleagues to provide guidance to our political and business leaders as more cities and towns begin programs in sharing electric scooters to decrease congestion and improve air quality in congested areas of your communities. Programs, such as Zagster, provide scooters with a maximum speed of 15 miles per hour. Scooters should only be operated with the rider having a helmet or there will be a marked increase in brain injury. We need to work with first responders to provide experts that can be interviewed by the media as these bike and scooter sharing centers are introduced to our communities to promote safe use.
We also should be the go to place to provide speakers that can participate in stroke education at community meetings and fairs. Experience has shown that having neurocritical care staff at such events working side by side with first responders only increases public interest. Helping to co-sponsor stroke runs and education days to promote healthy life styles is a major plus for staff in many units in that it also builds staff morale. One of most successful events is partnering with law enforcement to sponsor drug give back events where the public brings unused prescription drugs for proper disposal. This can greatly decrease unused narcotics being diverted to add to the abuse crisis that grips many of our communities.
Partnering with these agencies that are at the front line of providing community service can enhance greatly the public’s knowledge of what we do in the neuro ICU and the diversity of healthcare experts that staff these units. The importance of working with these first responders is a great positive for all of us that work in neurocritical care, reinforces the services we provide each day in our units and is a great public relations tool for our hospitals.