School staff learn to 'Stop the Bleed' in case of tragedy

Most skills we learn to be able to use someday. But the skills being taught in the simulations at a "Stop the Bleed" class in Stony Brook, Long Island, nobody wants to have to use, ever.

Dr. James Vosswinkel is chief of trauma surgery at Stony Brook University Hospital. His students on this day were not premed. They're school staffers who work with the 6,000-plus children from pre-K to 12th grade in the Three Village Central School District. They all came voluntarily under the cloud of frequent school shootings, knowing we are all vulnerable.

Superintendent Cheryl Pedisich said the district has encouraged its entire faculty and staff, from clerical to custodial to administration, to participate.

The Stop the Bleed course was designed and funded by the Department of Homeland Security after the Sandy Hook shooting. It is a combination of lectures and hands-on training on what to do in case of injuries like those sustained in a mass shooting.

The lifesaving skills being taught are very real for those work in schools. The classes are free. Already more than 3,000 people have been trained through the program.

Colby Rowe, Stony Brook Medicine's outreach coordinator, said that school districts now see this kind of training as more of a need than a want.

Five minutes can be the difference between life and death. If someone is losing blood, five minutes of that blood loss can be fatal. What students are learning to do is try to buy a victim enough time for trained medical professionals to arrive and help.

Dr. Vosswinkel said that these skills have become more essential in the current climate.

"God forbid someone is in a mass-casualty situation, they are the initial responder before help can get there," he said. "It is imperative that people learn these skills."

Stop the Bleed is a national program teaching these skills in cities across the country now. Its popularity has snowballed, it can be said, for the wrong reasons. But alas, here we are.