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MOBILE, Ala. -- Long time nurse Philip Merritt, a trauma nurse at the University of South Alabama Medical Center Emergency Department, has been selected as the Society of Trauma Nurses (STN) Eastern Association for the Surgery of Trauma (EAST) 31st Annual Scientific Assembly STN Fellow.
Every year EAST has its Annual Scientific Assembly and accepts nominations for the STN fellow. Trauma and Critical Care Surgeon Dr. Linda Ding nominated Merritt for the honor.
Merritt received the award during the assembly in January 2018, along with several trauma and critical care surgeons.
“EAST promotes advancing science, fostering relationships and building careers,” Merritt says. So participating in the assembly offered the chance to learn about current research with the potential to change future practice standards, network with other trauma nurses and update his personal training for the care of trauma patients.
Perhaps most important to him personally, the conference offered new thoughts on helping prevent the violence and other behaviors that bring patients to the emergency room in the first place.
“Level 1 trauma centers are required to have outreach programs,” Merritt says. They are expected to work with their communities, to identify the issues that lead to trauma — gunshot victims, intimate partner violence, drug use, texting while driving — and work to prevent those problems.
“It’s one of your duties to the community,” says Merritt. Some trauma centers bring at-risk youth into the hospital to show them job opportunities; some burn centers work with Boy Scouts to teach fire safety; some work with young drivers to help them understand the dangers of distractions behind the wheel.
Attending such a conference re-energizes you, Merritt says.
“If you take a step back from the routine of doing your job everyday and look at the amazing things going on to improve trauma care, you’re re-energized. It reinforces the motivation to provide excellent care.”
Merritt is particularly grateful to Ding for nominating him for the STN Fellow.
“She has been a really good mentor, physician to nurse, and that’s allowed me to grow professionally,” he says. “We have a lot of physicians like that, who really support the nurses to help them grow professionally.”
Growing your skills and reinforcing the motivation is important, he says, because trauma work is amazing. Seeing people come in to the hospital desperately ill or badly injured, treating them, consoling them, is mentally taxing but rewarding.
“I think that’s what my calling is,” he says.
“I always wanted to have a job where I could serve people while I’m working,” he says, “but you have to make a living. It would be fun to volunteer, but that’s not possible. I wanted an occupation where I could help people but make an honest living.”
Nursing was the answer. A native of York, in west central Alabama, who spent his early years in Baldwin County before his family moved to Texas and Indiana and Ohio, he came back to attend nursing school at the University of South Alabama. Undecided about a nursing specialty as he approached his practicum — psychiatric nursing also appealed to him — he opted to work in the emergency department, seeing it as an opportunity to learn a lot and hone his skills. He’s been there ever since.
“I loved ER nursing — the pace of it, the spontaneity of what you’re seeing. You incorporate everything you learn — you see the elderly and pediatric patients, gunshot wounds, heart attacks, everything.”
Now an RN Clinical II, Merritt works full time in the emergency department and also teaches nursing at Coastal Alabama Community College. He has a love for trauma and providing excellent care to all of the patients that present to the Medical Center’s ED. He looks forward to using the information learned from the 31st Annual EAST Scientific Assembly and incorporating it into “making our trauma care even better”.
Merritt and his wife, Shelley, have been married 14 years and have two children, Collens who is 11 and Allie who is 9. They love to travel, hike and kayak.
As a state-certified Level 1 Trauma and Burn Center, University of South Alabama Medical Center serves as the major referral center for patients with traumatic injuries from southern Alabama, southeast Mississippi, and portions of northwest Florida. Last year alone, USA Medical Center served patients in 53 counties.
The Medical Center’s designated trauma team - which includes around-the-clock trauma surgeons, cardiovascular surgeons, and neurosurgeons - treats an average of five critically injured patients a day, which is more than 1,700 people a year. As the go-to facility for the area’s toughest emergencies, USA Medical Center is capable of providing total care for every aspect of injury, from prevention through rehabilitation. USA Medical Center is a part of USA Health.
© 2018 USA Health System