For her leadership and commitment to wilderness medicine through volunteerism, teaching and publishing, Linda Laskowski Jones, MS, APRN, ACNS-BC, CEN, FAWM, FAAN, received the Warren D. Bowman, M.D., Award from the Wilderness Medical Society in July at the international organization’s annual meeting in Colorado. The award recognizes a non-physician health professional for outstanding contributions in support services to wilderness medicine.
Jones, Christiana Care’s vice president of Emergency and Trauma Services, says her most unforgettable outdoor emergency care experience happened several years ago on the Blue Mountain ski slopes in Palmerton, Pa. The emergency involved a patient having tonic-clonic or grand mal seizures. As volunteer members of the Blue Mountain Ski Patrol, Jones and her husband, Larry, arrived to find a woman whose airway was completely blocked. She cleared the skier’s airway, but every time she tried to turn the woman on her back, her airway became blocked with secretions and the seizure continued. They had to get the skier down the slope to the emergency care facility. The only way to do so safely and quickly was to position and secure the skier on her side in a ski patrol transport toboggan while lying behind her, squeezing a hand-held portable suction device to keep her airway open.
As husband Larry Jones hauled the toboggan down the steep, bumpy slope and Linda held on tight, the patient continued to have tonic-clonic seizures. Once at the aid room on the slopes, Jones asked someone to call for a medical evacuation helicopter to transport the skier to a local Level I trauma center. Jones later learned that the seizure was the first manifestation of a brain tumor. The skier made it through, not in small part because of Jones’ quick, expert action and years of training.
The wilderness medicine specialty involves patient care and treatment provided in an outdoor environment where access to medical care is limited or not available — usually in a remote location such as the woods, mountains or desert, or a disaster situation without access to traditional medical equipment and resources.
Jones, a fellow in the Academy of Wilderness Medicine, traces her interest in this area back to her childhood.
“My favorite place was the woods,” she said. “I would do anything to camp or hike, or spend time outside.”
Through the years, she has backpacked 100 miles in one trip on the Appalachian Trail, and hiked halfway across England through the Lake District on the Coast-to-Coast Walk, the British equivalent of the Appalachian Trail. Travelling with her husband, they rely on each other and the contents of their packs for survival.
She attended her first wilderness medicine conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 2005, and she was inspired.
“There were lectures in everything from survival in the desert to using improvised materials to fashion splints to recognizing and managing diseases endemic to certain islands and developing countries,” recalled Jones. “The things they talked about were things that we enjoyed doing and learning about, and the perspectives were different than anything in my traditional nursing education or health care education, so I was hooked.”
The Wilderness Medical Society, established in 1983, welcomes members with varied backgrounds willing to work with non-traditional tools in unconventional settings to provide emergency care.
“Typically when I speak at nursing conferences on wilderness medicine, people are interested and they want to know how they can get involved,” said Jones. “A number of physician colleagues here at Christiana Care are interested and involved in outdoor activities. There is [an informal] wilderness medicine interest group within our Emergency Medicine residency.”
Jones oversees the operations for one of the nation’s busiest Emergency Departments, ranked 24th in the U.S. and 12th on the East Coast in number of patient visits, according to data from the American Hospital Association. Jones also oversees Christiana Care’s trauma program, including the Level I trauma center at Christiana Hospital — the only trauma center in Delaware and between Baltimore and Philadelphia to provide this highest level of care for adult and pediatric patients.
“Linda has devoted her career to trauma and emergency care, and she has a passion and true love for the field of wilderness medicine,” said Richard Bounds, M.D., a fellow member of the Wilderness Medical Society who works in Christiana Care’s ED with Doctors for Emergency Services. “She is constantly looking for opportunities to volunteer her services and share her expertise.”