Allegheny Health Network (AHN) Grove City Hospital announced today the appointment of Heather Erickson as trauma coordinator of the hospital’s Level IV Trauma Center.
Erickson brings to her new role impressive depth and breadth of experience in care management for trauma patients, from pre-hospital stabilization and transport to delivery of care in the emergency department, as well as expediting the strategic transfer of patients to a higher level of care, when necessary.
The Grove City native began her career caring for critically injured patients as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and soon trained to become a paramedic, working prehospital in Erie County. Years later, she moved to Pittsburgh and worked as a medic in the emergency department at Allegheny General Hospital, AHN’s flagship hospital and Level I Trauma Center. “Learning about emergency nursing from those I worked alongside at AGH helped me realize that was what I ultimately wanted to do,” said Erickson.
For the next three years, while she worked the night shift, she spent her days taking classes at the Community College of Allegheny County to earn her registered nurse. She went on to earn her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing from Robert Morris University. Erickson further advanced her training and gained credentialing as a Critical Care Registered Nurse (CCRN), Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN) and Certified Flight Registered Nurse (CFRN).
The first leg of her nursing career, Erickson continued to work at AGH in the emergency department, trauma ICU, cardiothoracic ICU, and eventually LifeFlight. “I always wanted to fly,” she said. “The skills I learned as a flight nurse were invaluable and continue to serve me well even today.”
During her time with AGH, Erickson worked in various high-level patient care units and held several leadership positions. But, when the opportunity to oversee operations at AHN Grove City’s Level IV Trauma Center presented, she quickly expressed her interest. She assumed the role previously held by Cheryl Pebbles, who took the hospital through the three-year long accreditation process to become a Level IV Trauma Center in 2014.
In 2014, Grove City Hospital was only the second accredited Level IV trauma center in Pennsylvania; today, there are 13. According to the Pennsylvania Trauma Systems Foundation (PTSF), which maintains oversight of trauma centers, Level IV centers primarily provide initial care and stabilization of traumatic injury while arranging transfer to a higher level of trauma care. Level IV centers are largely located in rural areas across the Commonwealth, with sparsely populated service areas. Nearly 70 percent of the trauma patients treated at Grove City Hospital are persons 65 and older who have sustained injuries from a fall. The remaining patients include those who are injured while bull riding, skydiving, farming or from car crashes due to the proximity of the hospital to routes 79 and 80.
While Erickson is devoting much of her time to preparing for the PTSF reaccreditation survey of Grove City’s Level IV Trauma Center, scheduled for June, she continues to forge ahead with her goals for her new area of responsibility. “My first priority is bringing consistency to every aspect of what we do, from managing the trauma registry to how we deliver patient care,” she said. “There should be absolutely no difference between how we approach trauma care and how every other trauma center does. During a trauma, we approach and treat each patient that has had a traumatic event the same no matter how acute or minute the injury to ensure all injuries are identified and patients who require higher level of care are transferred expeditiously.”
Erickson is committed to supporting the professional development of her staff, encouraging them to advance their education and earn specialty certifications. “That will help provide the foundation for our performance improvement on every level,” she said.
“We could have searched far and wide and we never would have found a new trauma coordinator more ideally suited for this position in our hospital,” said David Tupponce, MD, AHN Grove City President. “Not only does she bring remarkable professional experience, but also the knowledge she’s gained about Allegheny Health Network through her years of service at AGH, which is significant. The fact that she was born and raised here in Grove City is another great asset, especially considering the community outreach efforts she is planning.”