USU Surgeon Teaches High Schoolers How to “Stop the Bleed”

A closeup of a cylindrical model of a human limb as two students, both wearing purple rubber gloves practice bleed-stopping techniques on it. One student holds the model steady as the other applies pressure to the fake wound.

By Christopher Austin

The ninth graders of River Hill High School in Howard County, Maryland, filed into the gym and took their seats on the bleachers, abuzz with excitement. Their schedules were different -- to make room for visiting health professionals from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU), Maryland Shock Trauma Center, and Howard County Fire and Rescue (HCFR) who were there to teach the students how to save lives through the Stop the Bleed campaign.

One of the providers, Army Col. (Dr.) Kyle Remick, has been supporting Stop the Bleed since its inception. The Stop the Bleed initiative was launched by the White House in 2015 to encourage bystanders to become trained, equipped, and empowered to help victims in a bleeding emergency before professional help arrives.

Remick, an associate professor in the Department of Surgery at USU, is responsible for teaching the next generation of military physicians to care for life threatening injuries, and as a trauma surgeon at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, he has seen his share of traumatic injury patients. But, he felt the need to pass that knowledge along to a wider audience.

“I was doing all this work for the Department of Defense, trying to translate these lessons and realized I hadn’t done anything in the place where I live, specifically for the high school that my son goes to,” he said. “I had already been involved in the Parent-Teacher-Student Association and realized it would be good to have [this training] in high school.”

Remick contacted Dr. Matt Levy, the medical director for HCFR and associate professor of Emergency Medicine at Johns Hopkins University, to discuss setting up training. It turned out that Levy had already been promoting Stop the Bleed in the county, advocating for placement of Stop the Bleed emergency kits in public areas, including schools. It was these kits that the RHHS students would be learning about.

The freshmen were first given a presentation and taught to identify life-threatening wounds; for example, one spurting blood, or a patient who has already lost over half a cup of blood. In the United States, it takes emergency services on average 10 minutes to arrive at a location when they are called. In that time, a person can lose enough blood from a serious cut or gunshot wound to be fatal, but with the use of a tourniquet and/or medical gauze, death may be prevented.

A student wearing purple rubber gloves practices applying a tourniquet to one of his classmates.
During the Stop the Bleed training, students were encouraged to practice applying tourniquets to one another to get a feel for how much effort is needed to stop blood flow. Students were careful not to go too far with their practice. (Image credit: Christopher Austin)

Students were split into groups to test what they learned on extremity simulators, provided by Shock Trauma and HCFR, made up with realistic-looking traumatic injuries. Volunteers from Shock Trauma guided them. They were given the emergency kits, which contained gloves, a tourniquet and gauze. Before doing anything, they were instructed to put on their gloves, with instructors emphasizing the importance of using gloves whenever touching blood to prevent infections for both the wounded and the responder.

Students practiced putting the tourniquets on one another and on the simulators, with the volunteer staff reinforcing they should only use them on bleeding limbs. Students were then instructed to apply the tourniquet so it sits between the heart and the wound, tightening it until blood flow ceased. Once the bleeding has stopped, or if the cut is on the torso, it is time to apply gauze, students were told.

“You want to make sure that you pack the deepest spot of the wound that’s bleeding [with gauze], and not just wad up the gauze and put it on top of the wound,” Remick said. “That’s why there’s a model we use. If we just open up a bandage and stick it on the outside of the cut, it doesn’t do nearly as much. You specifically need to take the end of the gauze and push it down deep into the hole.

A volunteer from Howard County Fire & Rescue shows three students how to stop bleeding using a tourniquet and gauze on a model of a human limb with artificial wounds put in it. The volunteer puts pressure on the fake limb while one of the students - who is wearing gloves - manipulates the tourniquet. A camera sits on a tripod to the right, filming this, with a hand holding a microphone out to capture sound.
A Howard County Fire and Rescue volunteer works with a River Hill High School student to practice applying a tourniquet to an extremity simulator with realistic wounds. Tourniquets are wrapped around injured limbs, placed between the injury and the heart, and tightened to cut off blood flow to the wound. (Image credit: Christopher Austin)

“I liked how it was really hands-on, we didn’t just listen to a presentation,” said Maddie Florenzo, one of the students taking part in the training. “I think it will really help for future experiences, if I ever get into a situation where someone has a life-threatening injury.”

Remick believes that RHHS is the first high school in the state of Maryland to give Stop the Bleed training to students. The event was a collaboration between USU, HCFR, Shock Trauma, the Maryland Committee on Trauma and the Howard County Public School System.

Students and teachers were excited by the exercises, and very satisfied with the training they received, leaving with confidence that they will be able to properly respond to a bleeding emergency.

“This is my favorite thing to teach,” said Sybil Modispacher, the health teacher at River Hill High School. “It’s a life skill that students can take with them into the world.”