By December 18, 2013

Gunshot Wound Emergency Trauma Class

Sedagive? and I recently attended a beginner class on treating a gunshot wound in the case of emergency. We were interested in this subject for a long time, but training wasn’t available in Minnesota until this year. I’ve done some reading and own a book on “field expedient” trauma care, but it’s not the same as being taught by an instructor. I was grateful that my typical instructor received training of his own earlier in the year and was able to offer this class.

In this post I’ll discuss why I think you should take a similar class, and some thoughts about the curriculum itself.

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Class objectives

This class was specifically designed for people already involved in gunfighting training. The object of the class was to teach a civilian operating alone (or with loved ones) who needed to respond to a gunshot until medical assistance could arrive. This was not a first aid class.

The objective was to identify different types of medical emergencies caused by a gunshot wound or wounds and how to tend them as best as possible until the cavalry arrived. It was not meant to supplant professional medical attention, nor was it for “end of the world” ditch medicine.

Class composition

The class was three hours. There were eight students, my lead instructor, and an assistant instructor. The first 90 minutes or so was lecture. The remaining 90 minutes was a mixture of lecture, partner exercises in using trauma equipment, and a question and answer period about gear, ethics and situations.

To my knowledge, none of the students were certified in any other form of first aid. I have studied first aid techniques but I am not a medical professional.

I think half the class already had trauma kits. I know one of the students had purchased an Individual First Aid Kit (IFAK) from Chinook Medical and mounted it on his chest rig, but never opened it. Out of the students, I believe I was the only person to have built several kits. I know that the assistant instructor has a daily carry kit and carries his trauma kit around with him like I do. I also know another instructor carries a similar setup.

All of the attendees were repeat students from previous fight-focused training courses offered by the same organization.

Class curriculum

Without spelling out exactly what was taught and how it was conveyed, I’ll just go high level here:

  • The effects of gunshot wounds on the body, and how handgun caliber wounds are different from rifle caliber wounds.
  • The primary ways people die of preventable deaths due to gunshot wounds (e.g., bleeding from an extremity like the TSA agent in California).
  • What to do if you or a loved one is shot in a gunfight.
  • Trauma kit equipment, especially differences in older bandages vs newer ones, hemostatic (blood clotting) agents, and different kinds of tourniquets.
  • How to apply a bandage, use a tourniquet, use a Nasopharyngeal airway tool (nose breathing passage thingy), and how to use a chest decompression needle.
  • Tactical situations to consider, such as stopping the threat before administering aid to the injured party.

The material was concise, and one of the things I liked the most was the very clear expectation of what would be possible by us (or someone like us) versus a real medical service person in an emergency room.

We weren’t training to set broken bones, or resuscitate a drowning victim. We were there to learn how to apply a tournique, stuff gauze into holes, and to apply pressure dressings to those holes. Yes, we learned how to clear the nasal airway and deflate pressure in the lung, but the expectation was this: within the limited scope of injuries sustained in a gunfight, there were things we could treat and things we couldn’t.

Arterial blood spray from a hit in the upper thigh? We got that. Nasty shit in the guts leaking into the bloodstream? Not our problem.

Class summary

Training for trauma care reminds me a lot of starting firearms training. There’s a lot we think we know that becomes more clear when you start practicing. Even simple things like where you stored your nitrile gloves in your kit or if you unwrapped your tourniquet ahead of time. I was grateful to review the material and get some hands-on time.

While I knew a lot of what was in the course, I think the scope of the course was appropriate given the general knowledge level of the class. I am not certain that most of the students had done any research before attending the class aside from “I should buy an IFAK.” I am sure that it encouraged everyone to buy, build, or improve their kits. These are both excellent take aways.

I am very encouraged and excited about trauma care classes coming to my area, and I hope you seek out any similar training where you live. Even if you’re not doing the rest of the self-defense training circuit, it never hurts to know how to handle a gunshot wound.

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