Understanding the Cycle of Care

In keeping with its long tradition of training resident physicians in South Texas, CHRISTUS Spohn gives future emergency room physicians the opportunity to use lifesaving technology alongside local firefighters, building bonds for providing better patient care.

By: Steven Alford
Photos by: Steven Alford


The emergency room doctors of tomorrow got a firsthand look at the lifesaving technology of today during a recent exercise at the Flour Bluff Volunteer Fire Department. More than 20 emergency medicine resident physicians from CHRISTUS Spohn Hospital-Memorial learned what happens during an accident before a patient arrives at the hospital. They even got to try out the “Jaws of Life” themselves on a few donated junk cars.

It’s all part of an annual training program to give local doctors and firefighters a better understanding of what each does in the cycle of care for South Texas residents. “As emergency physicians, we need to know what happens in the field so we can better work with our emergency responder partners and provide the best possible care for our patients,” said Dr. Tom McLaughlin, emergency medicine resident program director. “It’s great to be able to build those bonds.”

The CHRISTUS Spohn emergency medicine residents gathered around and snapped pictures as Deputy Fire Chief J. P. Hominick and his crew demonstrated how airbags deploy, and the kinds of injuries that can occur during a car wreck. The resident physicians enjoyed suiting up in full firefighter gear to try using the pneumatic extraction device themselves known commonly as the “Jaws of Life.”


The large metal pliers are a lot heavier to hold than you might think, according to third-year resident, Dr. Kelly Dowey. “It was a fun experience, and it makes a lot more sense for you when you actually get to try it for yourself and see what it takes to pull someone out of a vehicle,” Dowey said. “It gives you an idea of just how hard our firefighters work.”

CHRISTUS Spohn has a long tradition of training resident physicians in South Texas, dating back to the creation of the family medicine residency program at Memorial in the early 1970s. In 2007, CHRISTUS Spohn expanded the program to also include the emergency medicine residency program, both of which provide residents with a full spectrum of care needed by the communities they serve. The three-year program enrolls 12 new residents each year, for a total of 36 residents at any given time.

Hominick said he enjoys the annual training sessions with the emergency medicine residents because it helps the two groups trade best practices and information, which ultimately means better patient outcomes. “This is really good for the community, because these residents get to see what we do before these patients are brought to them,” Hominick said. “It helps us all to be on the same page and work together even better.”

CHRISTUS Spohn Health System is the region’s largest hospital system in South Texas, consisting of six hospital campuses throughout the Coastal Bend. The health system is consistently ranked a health care leader in the area, and it has received national recognition for several pioneering programs, including trauma, cardiac care, clinical excellence and oncology. For more than 100 years, CHRISTUS Spohn has been distinguished by its high-caliber staff and affiliated physicians, its comprehensive and innovative services and its long history of responding to the needs of the community it serves.


For additional information, visit www.christusspohn.org.

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