The history of trauma care

monument, history of trauma care, level 1 adult and pediatric trauma verification, rapid transport to a trauma center, traumatic injury, trauma prevention

As Hennepin Healthcare celebrates 30 years of Level 1 Adult & Pediatric Trauma verification, it’s important to look back in time and see how we got here. Trauma is not new – it has happened and been treated since the beginning of time, not just the past 30 years. But before the formal verification process was developed by the American College of Surgeons, an interesting journey led us to this honorable professional status. In America, trauma history can be traced back to the Civil War in the 1860’s, where injured military personnel were triaged and transported to hospital setups according to the extent of their injuries. President Abraham Lincoln drove the creation of the first trauma manual which detailed processes on how to care for injured patients. Formal documentation and later research of the injured post-care evolved through WWI and WWII. After WWII medical specialization in emergency medicine began and hospitals opened emergency departments. This also set the stage for transportation and emergency medical services (EMS), as did the use of helicopters for rapid transport in the Korean and Vietnam wars.

It became clear that rapid transport to a trauma center saves lives.

Meanwhile, during the 1950s, the nation’s freeway and highway systems rapidly developed. Traumatic injury was becoming a national epidemic, which led to several pieces of legislation that required all states to develop EMS systems and EMT training of air transport services.

Later on, prevention became an important focus. Seat belts were required in cars beginning in 1968, airbags were released in 1969 and bike helmets were developed in 1975.

In the 1980s, the American College of Surgeons (ACS) began evaluating hospitals seeking trauma designation and created categories of Levels I, II, III and IV.

In 1989 HCMC became the first Level I Trauma Center in Minnesota. It takes a team to do what we do and have the great outcomes that we do, so congratulations to everybody who touches a trauma patient in some way at Hennepin Healthcare. Here’s to 30 years!

(Thank you to the American College of Surgeons and The Committee on Trauma)


  1. Karen Robideau on September 18, 2019 at 11:11 pm

    Trauma care did not begin when Hennepin Healthcare became a Level 1 Trauma center. It began when two nurses, Hilly Prose and Betty Cavanaugh, went to the Cleveland Clinic and learned about treating trauma and other criticals in the ER rather than sending them to the wards. They presented their findings to Dr. Claude Hitchcock who collaborated with the University of MN Medical School to develop an ER medicine specialty. This was back in the early 70’s. Those first physicians went out to become heads of ER departments across the Twin Cities and beyond, replacing many physicians who had no idea how to treat trauma patients. Through this program, para-medicine was born along with certification for ER nurses. The history of trauma care goes way beyond the institution of becoming a Level I trauma hospital.

  2. Olga DeGroot on September 30, 2019 at 1:23 pm

    Thank you for making difference every day!

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