Trauma Services

Providence St. Patrick Hospital is Western Montana’s regional trauma center and is a designated Level II Trauma Center. "It means we have the immediate ability to provide difinitive care in an organized fashion for all trauma patients," says trauma director Brad Pickhardt, MD.

Trauma Center Certification

Providence St. Patrick Hospital is the only Level II Trauma Center verified by the American College of Surgeons, Accredited Stroke Center and Accredited Chest Pain Center in the region. As a Level II Trauma Center, we provide:

  • Highly trained team of critical care specialists
  • Trauma physician assistant to follow each inpatient and to oversee the efforts of all specialists to ensure a comprehensive approach to patient care
  • Daily and weekly trauma team meetings for all specialists including trauma surgeons, neurosurgeons, orthopedic surgeons, occupational therapists, physical therapists, dietitian, pathologists, social workers and rehabilitation physicians to identify the upcoming needs for each trauma patient
  • Involvement in local, regional, state and national trauma committees.
  • Quality trauma education for physicians, midlevels, registered nurses, and emergency medical services personnel
  • Daily monitoring of patients admitted to our trauma service
  • Rigorous internal performance improvement and peer review

Learn more about trauma centers

Who is a trauma patient?

The trauma patient is injured due to some external cause—a motor vehicle accident, a fall or a gunshot wound, for example. This patient arrives in the emergency department with a different set of needs than does someone who is critically ill—such as, someone having a heart attack. The medical response required to meet the needs of the trauma patient is complex.

Since the response is specialized, and must be delivered quickly, trauma patients are best served when they are cared for in a hospital that has made a commitment to specialize in their care—a trauma center. Studies have shown injured patients cared for in Trauma Centers have a mortality rate 25 percent lower than injured patients cared for in hospitals that are not trauma centers.

In Montana, trauma is the number one killer of people aged 1 to 44. And for every death, up to 10 people are permanently disabled by their injuries.

How can a trauma center help me?

Many of the injured patients cared for at Level II Trauma Centers are initially treated at a smaller, outlying facility. Once the patient arrives at the Trauma Center, he or she is met in the Emergency Room by the trauma team—at the ready with a trauma surgeon and specialists, such as neurosurgeons—and the surgical team is at the ready in the operating room.

Even at 3 a.m., if it appears the patient is seriously injured, the team is ready within 15 minutes. The team will quickly provide the treatments to stabilize the patient. Many of these patients will need emergency surgery and/or admittance to the Intensive Care Unit.

How many levels of trauma centers are there?

There are different levels of trauma centers, classified by their adherence to rigorous standards of patient care. Montana hospitals are verified by a national group, the American College of Surgeons (ACS). Level I Centers are the highest level of classification. These are teaching and research facilities in large cities and require all specialists to be available in the hospital 24 hours a day. The nearest Level I Trauma Center is Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, Washington.

The next highest level is Level II. Specialists in these centers have committed to responding to the ER within 15 minutes of being called for trauma patients. There are four Level II Centers in Montana:

  • Providence St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula
  • Benefis Health System in Great Falls
  • St. Vincent Healthcare in Billings
  • Billings Clinic

There are three Level III Centers, Kalispell Regional Medical Center, St. James Healthcare in Butte and Bozeman Deaconess Hospital. These centers may not have specialists who are available to respond within 30 minutes of being called.

What else do trauma centers do?

Level II Trauma Centers also participate in Injury Prevention programs that aim to keep people from being injured in the first place. Most traumas are avoidable by driving safely and by wearing helmets while riding bicycles, motorcycles, horses or ATVs.

In order for the critically injured patient to receive the best care and the best chance of survival, the entire system must function well. Dispatch, EMS and the hospitals must work together. The goal is to get injured patients to the right place in the right amount of time.

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Providence St. Patrick Hospital

Mock Crash Video

Recorded April 19, 2017, Providence, Missoula EMS and other community partners staged a reenactment of a distracted driving motor vehicle crash to help area high school teens understand the consequences of distracted driving, and injuries caused by the lack of, or improper use of seat belts.