What to do when you are running against time to save a life


Through theoretical and practical sessions, participants enhanced their knowledge and practical skills in managing bleeding, treating haemorrhagic shock, and managing patients with burns and spinal trauma.

WHO trains emergency health workers in eastern Ukraine on trauma care

Rapidity of intervention and knowledge of the right steps to take are crucial for saving lives in trauma situations. If a patient’s airway is obstructed, there are only few minutes left to avoid death. Major trauma care also requires several health specialists to intervene simultaneously as a team.

This is why the WHO Health Emergencies Programme in Ukraine spares no effort in empowering health professionals in trauma care and emergency medicine.

During a 4-day Advanced Trauma Care Training (ATCT) on 22 to 25 October 2019, 42 health workers – heads of hospitals, surgeons, anesthesiologists, traumatologists and emergency doctors – increased their skills in the non-government-controlled area (NGCA) of Luhansk city in eastern Ukraine. They are now better equipped and prepared to help patients in critical condition, to preserve life, and to prevent secondary injuries and further disabilities.

This training was made possible thanks to the generous contribution of the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF).

Enhancing critical knowledge and skills to boost preparedness

Dr Olena Peicheva is an anesthesiologist and WHO trainer in Luhansk NGCA. In the practical sessions, she highlights that health professionals must anticipate problems in the airway before they happen.

“We must ensure and monitor that the airway is open and that the patient is breathing. During the theoretical and practical sessions, we underline the importance of seeing, feeling and hearing clinical signs to be able to detect airway and breathing abnormalities, because they can kill patients within minutes,” she says.

The participants have also enhanced their knowledge and practical skills in managing bleeding, treating haemorrhagic shock, and managing patients with burns and spinal trauma.

Examining the patient from head to toe is mandatory but frequently overlooked, explains Dr Omar Saleh, WHO’s trauma and emergency medicine specialist in Ukraine: “When managing mass casualties, where the number of patients and the needs exceed capacities, triage is a must for doctors, nurses and feldshers. This is what we prioritize in our training. We also include an introduction on mental health for health workers and on preparedness to respond to chemical, biological and radio-nuclear events.”

For Dr Caroline Clarinval, WHO Health Programme Coordinator in Ukraine, the ATCT is one of WHO’s flagship trainings in Ukraine. “With the support of our donors, we have been able to establish a multidisciplinary team composed of a trauma surgeon, 2 anesthesiologists and co-facilitators; to develop related materials; and to procure high-quality simulation equipment.”

“In many cases, the survival of trauma patients depends on a competent and well coordinated trauma team working in harmony,” she continues. “Besides learning lifesaving skills such as endotracheal intubation and bleeding control, participants also had an opportunity to practise working in a multidisciplinary trauma team, to learn from peers and to establish their own professional networks. All this is vital when time is running out for patients in a critical state.”