As a nurse in the Burn, Trauma and Surgical Intensive Care Unit, Vedna Heywood, RN, is no stranger to the devastating effects of violence on patients, families and communities.
It was on her mind last year when she ran for election to the school committee in Plymouth, where she lives. “I asked the superintendent if I could bring tourniquet training to the schools if I won,” Heywood recalls. “Then I asked him if I could do it even if I lost.”
The answer, in both cases, was yes.
“I wanted to empower students and teachers to be able to act and potentially save a life, should they ever be in the position to do so,” said Heywood, who now sits on the town’s school committee.
The Parkland school shooting in Florida was her impetus — and deeply personal. She grew up near Parkland and worked in the trauma unit of Broward General Hospital prior to coming to the Brigham. “Many of the victims of the Parkland shooting were treated by my former colleagues,” she said. “It’s very close to home for me.”
Heywood says that the value of knowing how to apply a tourniquet goes beyond mass casualty events.
“In some ways, it’s similar to teaching kids how to perform CPR,” she said. “Placing a tourniquet is a lifesaving measure that may help people with bleeding injuries from a car accident or a fall. This is another tool in students’ toolboxes.”
Heywood partnered with the school district and the Brigham’s Reza Askari, MD, Trauma director, and Meghan McDonald, MSN, RN, Trauma Program nurse director, to organize a training for approximately 20 school nurses in Plymouth in March.
“We wanted to make the program sustainable by training nurses, who could then train other staff and students,” said Heywood.
The team also collaborated with Eric Goralnick, MD, director of Emergency Preparedness at the Brigham. He has conducted prior trainings as part of the national Stop the Bleed campaign, which aims to equip bystanders with the skills and knowledge to respond in the event of a bleeding emergency.
Working together, the team developed a Stop the Bleed course for Plymouth high schools.
Approximately one hundred 10th graders participated in the April 4 event — the first of its kind to take place in a Massachusetts public-school system. The event included a lecture and hands-on training, with assistance from Plymouth first responders, school officials, the school nurses who had received training and others. The Brigham’s Dawn MacDonald, MSN, RN, Trauma Outreach manager, Megan Mazokopos, BSN, RN, Quality manager, and Julie Cormican, BSN, RN, of CT/Angiography/Interventional Radiology, also assisted.
“The students were amazing,” Heywood said. “They gave us feedback about what we could do differently the next time we take this to a school. They wanted to be timed as they applied tourniquets, and they asked to use torn shirts instead of gauze, since those would more likely be available to them in a real-life scenario.”
Stop the Bleed will take place annually in Plymouth, and Heywood, the school district and Brigham colleagues are now hoping to work with other school systems to expand the program’s reach.
Tourniquet training is the newest addition to a long list of ways that Heywood has sought to empower people, serve her community and improve care for those harmed by violence.
“Speaking up on behalf of people whose voices aren’t heard is a common theme in my work as a nurse and in my service to organizations in my community,” she said. “Some people, such as victims of violence, aren’t heard because others don’t understand their circumstances. There are untold stories of the people we serve – I try to uncover those stories and use them to connect with people and help them.”
At the Brigham, Heywood is known for the compassionate care she provides to patients and families, especially those who have suffered from violence. She helped to create a Victims of Violence policy that protects patients with modified visitation guidelines so that they have a safe environment for treatment and healing.
During National Nurses Week, the Brigham is recognizing Heywood as one of the honorees of the Kurlat Essence of Nursing Award — the highest distinction for clinical nurses at the hospital.