AACN News—April 2001—People

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Vol. 18, No. 3, APRIL 2001

Texas Trauma Nurse Lives the Olympic Dream

What began with a long-distance e-mail relationship turned into an Olympic-size experience for Jeanette Vaughan, RN, MSN, CCRN, TNCC, a critical care nurse from Blue Ridge, Tex. In fact, Vaughan was the only U.S. nurse selected to be a part of the medical team of Games Force 2000, the official 80,000-volunteer workforce that staffed the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia.

“The opportunity to combine my professional career in nursing with my enthusiasm for volunteerism and desire to attend the Olympics was like a dream come true,” Vaughan commented.
“For one fortnight, I could forget about the four motor vehicle collisions, the three aggravated assaults and the gunshot wound to the chest that awaited transport from the emergency department to the ICU. I could forget about traffic jams, lines at the grocery, carpools and shifts to work.”

As a certified trauma nurse and CCRN in the Neurosciences/Trauma ICU at Baylor University Medical Center, community service was nothing new to Vaughan. Community involvement and service to others are components of Baylor’s mission statement, she noted. In fact, community service is part of Baylor’s clinical ladder structure criteria for promotion and career development.

For Vaughan, the road to the Olympics began when her Australian online pen pal notified her that an advertisement calling for volunteers had been published in a Sydney newspaper. However, according to the rules, information had to be completed on the application in the original ad. It could not be copied or faxed.

Although Vaughan recognized that the committee, understandably, wanted to recruit Australian volunteers first, she asked her friend to complete the application and submit it for her. Months passed before Vaughan was notified that she had been chosen for the volunteer assignment.

“It was an honor to be chosen as a part of the medical team,” Vaughan said. “I couldn’t believe it.”

She was even more surprised to learn that she was one of only two foreign applicants accepted. The reason probably can be attributed to “red tape,” such as obtaining licensure to practice in Australia, she surmised.

After being accepted, Vaughan submitted a funding proposal to Baylor, outlining the benefits of her participation at the Olympics. The hospital agreed to finance her participation as part of its global outreach program.

“In healthcare, the moneys are sometimes there; you just have to know whom to ask and where to look,” Vaughan said.

Being chosen for the assignment also brought some public relations benefits, including a feature article in a Dallas newspaper.

“It was great to have our trauma unit finally noted for something other than the latest high profile shooting or tragedy,” she said.

Vaughan actually made two 17,000-mile, 15-hour trips to Australia in connection with her duties. The first was for orientation and training in July and August 2000, when she also arranged to visit area trauma units and to attend an international trauma symposium. The second, of course, was for the Olympic event itself, during which Vaughan maintained a daily journal and filed electronic articles and photos for posting on the Baylor Web site.

Vaughan’s Olympic assignment venue was the Main Press Center, where the medical team would attend to health issues that related to the 17,000 international media representatives. In addition to Reuters and the Associated Press, journalists from France, China, Israel and Latin America were on hand.

The director of the Media Center advised that these “clients” could be stressed, fighting impossible deadlines and subsisting on caffeine, nicotine and stale doughnuts.
Vaughan said she was so excited about her first day of duty that she arrived two hours early for her 3 to 11 p.m. shift. In addition to Vaughan, an Australian physician and an ambulance crew staffed the clinic that night.

Although the medical team cared for media members with symptoms including flu, asthma, chest pains, dental problems and even hangovers with creative names, there were no major traumas. The strangest request was from a media person who wanted a Band-Aid for her camera lens.

The most serious trauma Vaughan said she attended to in connection with this experience occurred on her flight home, when a passenger passed out. He was cold and clammy. Although there was an orthopedic surgeon on board, Vaughan was the only nurse. When the Australian flight attendants inquired whether he could assist, he deferred to me, saying: “Hey she’s a trauma nurse, in the States. She would do a much better job than I could even dream of doing.” I am sure my wry smile belied the pride I felt at that moment.

While at the Olympics, Vaughan said she was fortunate to meet wonderful nurses from all over Australia.

“The bond of nursing and the dedication of its workforce is indeed universal,” she said. “I feel I have made some friends for life. No amount of money could replace the richness of the experience.

“I felt honored to represent not only Baylor and the United States, but also critical care nursing.”

Vaughan, who has 18 years of critical care experience, served as assistant professor at Texas Woman’s University College of Nursing before returning to the bedside. She has been invited to serve as a visiting faculty member at Griffith University School of Nursing on the Gold Coast of Australia in the summer of 2001.

Dressed in her official uniform for the 2000
Olympics Games, Jeannette Vaughan was
joined by her daughter Paige, 12, before
departing for Sydney, Australia.

Nurse Seized Chance to Learn About Australian Trauma Centers

While in Australia to train and staff the medical team for the 2000 Olympic Games, Jeannette Vaughan, RN, MSN, CCRN, TNCC, seized the opportunity to learn more about the healthcare system down under. In addition to visiting area hospitals, Vaughan arranged to attend an international trauma symposium.

Vaughan said she was struck by the contrasts between hospitals in different settings. Hospitals in more disadvantaged neighborhoods are actually better equipped, because government funding is channeled to the areas that are most in need, she explained.

For example, Liverpool Hospital, which is Australia’s busiest trauma center, is located adjacent to one of Sydney’s highest crime areas. Royal North Shore Hospital, which is located in an affluent Sydney neighborhood, badly needed remodeling.

Vaughan also cited a stark difference between the trauma caseload in Australia and the United States. Because Australia has a no tolerance policy against guns, Liverpool sees only two or three major penetrating trauma cases a year, and these are mostly knife wounds. In contrast, she noted, trauma centers in the United States might treat two to three gunshot wounds on a weekend.

The symposium Vaughan attended was at Liverpool Hospital, where faculty from all over the world had gathered.

“The conference was dynamic, extremely hands-on and fast-paced—quite unlike anything I have ever attended,” Vaughan said. “I was in awe of the knowledge in the room.”

On her visit to Royal North Shore Hospital, Vaughan said she discovered that much of the nurse’s role in resuscitating a trauma patient follows a structured set of procedures and protocols. The physicians, who make up most of the trauma team, do the primary and secondary surveys, intubate, and IV cannulate. The nurse is assigned mostly as the scribe,
she said.

Vaughan also visited trauma centers in Melbourne—at the Royal Melbourne and at the Albert. The Albert, she said, had just completed a $20 million, state-of-the art trauma facility, which had been completely designed by nurses.

All the patients’ cubicles had full-length windows that overlooked either a park or courtyard, Vaughan said. In addition, all monitoring systems, electric outlets and equipment racks were suspended from the ceilings on moveable arms, eliminating cord hazards. Patients could even be connected to equipment while in an outdoor courtyard.
On a day off from the Olympic assignment, Vaughan traveled up the coast to Coolangatta, south of Brisbane. There she met the chief flight nurse from the Royal Flying Doctor Service, who described the remote nursing adventures in caring for Australia’s indigenous people and for people working at sheep stations, who were isolated from healthcare.

“What a unique and exciting career in nursing this is,” Vaughan commented. “Nurses must not only be good in trauma, but certified in midwifery.”
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