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February 2013 / Staten Island Family / Columnists / Family Health

Staten Island University Hospital providing burn patients with delicate care and compassionate staff

A burn can change a life forever,” explains Dr. Michael Cooper, the surgeon who heads Staten Island University Hospital’s Jerome L. Finkelstein Regional Burn Center.

This insight into the nature of burn injuries is at the root of the facility’s family-centered care philosophy, as is the belief that each burn patient is unique.

First effected 14 years ago by the center’s namesake, family-centered care means giving loved ones 24-hour access to the patient’s bedside and involving the family in every aspect of the healing process, claims Dr. Cooper.

“Burns represent two different types of disease,” said Dr. Cooper.

Local burns are smaller, requiring pain medication, dressing changes, and possible antibiotics. Larger burns cover more than 15 percent of the body, with a higher-risk of complications, including breathing, and damage to the lungs and heart with a high-risk of infection.

“Taking care of burn patients requires delicate care and a compassionate team of healers,” Dr. Cooper says, adding treating youngsters with burn injuries is extremely difficult, but ultimately rewarding.

The hospital’s 10-bed unit admitted nearly 500 burn patients in 2011. Approximately 170 of them were children.

The comprehensive approach taken by the clinical team is viewed as a natural extension of the hospital’s trauma services, with most burn patients admitted from the Emergency Department.

The burn-trauma room in the new Elizabeth A. Connelly Emergency Trauma Center provides the burn team with everything necessary to provide care for all types of burn patients who enter through the Emergency Department.

“Everything we need is at our finger tips. When a burn patient is brought into the Emergency Department, everyone knows where to report and exactly what their role is. It’s almost muscle memory,” says Dr. Cooper.

The helipad is what makes the burn center truly a regional resource, and proved essential in the evacuation of burn patients during Hurricane Irene.

“We recently supported a Coast Guard rescue operation bringing an injured seaman here for life-saving care,” says Dr. Cooper.

Since opening in 1998, the center’s staff pursues a true-team concept that includes anesthesiology, pediatrics, nursing, psychiatry, rehabilitation medicine, pulmonary care services, and case management.

“We are constantly examining and improving their process,” says Marc Tempesta, administrative director of burn services.

Dr. Cooper says the future of the burn center lies in its past.

“We’re beginning to look back through our case findings to publish our experiences with our colleagues in the burn community,” he adds. “This type of information sharing allows the burn community to care for patients the world over.”

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