Trauma Surgery & Critical Care: An Inside Look

AUGUST 1, 2014

As home to the only Level I Trauma Center in Tarrant County – and one of only three in the entire Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex – John Peter Smith Hospital sees a heavy volume of some of the toughest trauma and critical care cases imaginable. JPS Health Network’s accreditation as a Level I Trauma Center – first attained in 2009 and reaccredited in 2012 – is a tremendous achievement for Tarrant County’s public hospital and a great asset to the people of North Texas. At JPS, a person with a life-threatening condition or injury will receive some of the very best emergency care in the nation.

For a hospital to receive a Level I Trauma Center designation, the trauma department must meet more than 200 different criteria and standards, including reduced response times, immediate access to critical specialists, aggressive patient safety plans and research programs to improve patient care.

So for the Texas Health Care surgeons who run the trauma unit at JPS, what’s the job really like? Mark Tellez, MD and Fernando Garcia, MD both shared their thoughts and experiences.

Asked if their jobs have changed since JPS became a Level I Trauma Center, Dr. Garcia, and Dr. Tellez both agree that the patient volumes and workload have increased. Dr. Tellez says one of the most challenging aspects of his job is to obtain the “resources to deliver better health care in a multicultural environment.”

Dr. Tellez and Dr. Garcia both agree that their jobs while demanding, are ultimately quite rewarding. “I have been trained with a special skill set; specifically, trauma care and critical care medicine,” Dr. Tellez explains. “I know because of my training, I have helped patients and families who might have had the worst possible outcome – but they did not, thanks to the care we provided.”

Dr. Garcia says simply, the reward for him comes from “being part of saving lives.”

To the average layperson, trauma surgery would seem like a very stressful job. Trauma surgeons witness a high degree of human suffering and tragedy, whether it’s a gunshot victim, car accident survivor or any number of other emergencies. How do Trauma Surgeons process those difficult circumstances in a way that allows them to move on to the next patient and save the next life – and keep doing it, day after day?

Dr. Garcia says he deals with the stresses of the job, first and foremost, through prayer. He also says that he and his colleagues strive to “continually improve so that we can make even more of a difference with the next patient.”

Dr. Tellez begins his answer by saying, “I love my job. I was born to do this; by nature, I am an adrenaline junkie. I don’t view my job as stressful; I view it as fuel for the drive that I have to save lives.” He continues, “In the unfortunate cases in which a patient does not make it, I know they received the best medical and surgical care I can give. I ‘leave it on the field.’”

Asked why, as general surgeons, they prefer to work in the Trauma Department, both agree that Trauma Surgery provides tremendous challenges and rewards. Dr. Garcia says “we can make a big difference in our patients’ lives.” Dr. Tellez considers working in Trauma to be the “ultimate reward” in and of itself.

Most people, if they are fortunate, will never have to see the inside of a Trauma Department – but when and if they do, it’s best to be in one that has the highest designation given, that of a Level I Trauma Center, as JPS is. A patient will also be quite fortunate to end up in the care of a skilled and dedicated Trauma Surgeon, like Dr. Garcia, Dr. Tellez and so many others at JPS Health Network clearly are.