As a hospital in a beach town, Long Beach Medical Center (LBMC) must prepare for different challenges that accompany the summer season, as people flock to the beaches to escape the heat through various activities, from swimming in the ocean to playing volleyball on the sand to fishing along the shore.
At the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine (NYCOM), an affiliate with LBMC, medical students to residents are trained in a simulated learning laboratory where a mannequin puts them through different types of scenarios. The goal is to take the exercise out of the classroom and into the field.
“These drills are filmed and then reviewed so that everyone is up to date and we know that they are competent in emergency situations,” said Dr. Cheryl Carrao, chief academic officer and family practitioner at LBMC.
Last September, the Institute for Clinical Competence of NYCOM, LBMC, the Long Beach Fire Department and Beach Patrol teamed up to conduct an inter-professional patient simulation exercise, in order to test the proficiency of all parties in a near-drowning situation. A lifeguard acted as the near-drowning victim who consumed drugs and alcohol the night before and went for an early-morning dip in the ocean. Lifeguards came to the rescue, carried the victim out of the water and handed him to EMS — at that point he is replaced by a mannequin — which rushed him to LBMC where emergency room doctors treated him.
“After the exercise, we watched the film to see what we did well, what we can do better, and are we prepared,” said Carrao, who noted that this summer LBMC will perform a drill that will simulate a pediatric emergency.
Throughout the summer, LBMC also gives lectures on heat stroke, dehydration, and fluid status. One lecture also covers skin changes, such as melanoma, an issue that is addressed more frequently during the beach season.
Dr. Dawn Williamson, the assistant director of emergency medicine who has worked at LBMC for 18 years, described the considerable experience the Long Beach hospital has treating beach- and summer-related injuries. Sprains and fractures are common injuries among those who play volleyball and similar beach sports, he said, and children who run on the boardwalk without shoes often get large splinters stuck in their feet and must go to the emergency room to have them removed.
One common injury that may surprise some is fishhook piercings. “Despite a five year residency, I had never seen that until I came to Long Beach,” Williamson explained.
Fishermen have filed into the ER with fishhooks stuck in their eyebrows, feet and legs, and some have even accidentally hit others with their hooks. “There are certain methods to remove these things, which you would not know if you were from a different area,” Williamson continued.
The most serious cases, however, almost always center on swimmers who drown or nearly drown, most of whom live outside the city.
“I think the people who live in Long Beach are taught by the schools and their parents to respect the ocean, whereas out-of-towners do not necessarily carry the same respect,” Williamson said. “It is usually those people who get into trouble and swim not in front of a lifeguard or after hours without a lifeguard on duty.”