The Impact of Concurrent Multi-Service Coverage on Quality and Safety in Trauma Care

J Surg Res. 2022 Feb;270:463-470. doi: 10.1016/j.jss.2021.10.009. Epub 2021 Nov 17.


Background: At many trauma centers in the United States, one acute care surgeon is responsible for overnight coverage of both the emergency general surgery (EGS) and trauma services. The impact of this scheduling phenomenon on the quality and safety of trauma care has not been studied.

Methods: Overnight (12:00 AM to 7:00 AM) trauma admissions to an academic Level 1 trauma center from 2013-2015 were studied after the institution adopted this scheduling phenomenon. Admissions were divided into two groups based on whether the admitting surgeon covered only the trauma service, or both the trauma and EGS services ("multi-service coverage"). Four major outcomes (e.g., mortality and complications), six quality metrics (e.g., time to first OR visit and unplanned transfers to the ICU), and procedural utilization patterns were compared.

Results: A total of 1046 admissions were included. There were no differences in any major outcomes between the two exposure groups, including any National Trauma Data Bank-defined complication (OR 1.1, 95% CI 0.8-1.5, P= 0.5). Quality metrics dependent on the admitting surgeon remained unchanged, including attending presence at the highest-level trauma activations within 15 min of arrival (93% versus 86%, P= 0.07) and time to urgent operative intervention (68 min versus 82 min, P= 0.9). There were no differences in the number of laboratory and imaging studies (4.1 versus 4.1, P= 0.9) or bedside interventions (1.8 versus 2.1, P= 0.4) performed per patient by the admitting surgeon. Multivariate logistic regression did not identify multi-service coverage as an independent risk factor for adverse patient outcomes or quality metrics.

Conclusions: Trauma admissions under a surgeon covering multiple services simultaneously had similar outcomes, quality metrics, and procedural utilization patterns compared to trauma admissions under surgeons covering only the trauma service. Despite concerns that multiple-service coverage may overburden one acute care surgeon, time-dependent quality metrics and studies done during the initial workup of trauma patients remained unchanged. These findings suggest that simultaneous trauma and EGS service coverage by one acute care surgeon does not adversely impact trauma patient care.

Keywords: Acute care surgery; Emergency general surgery; Quality and safety; Trauma; Workload.

MeSH terms

  • Critical Care
  • Humans
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Surgeons*
  • Trauma Centers*
  • United States