Warwick Hospital emergency department nurse practitioner, Bonnie Steele.
Warwick Hospital emergency department nurse practitioner, Bonnie Steele.

Nurse tells of emotional trauma of seeing crash after crash

SEVENTY-FOUR lives lost and 1475 people injured in just 13 years.

The Southern Downs Regional Council area's road toll statistics for 2001-2013 are shocking.

But the result of an APN Newsdesk analysis of Queensland Government data is an all-too familiar story for Bonnie Steele.

The Warwick Hospital emergency department nurse practitioner sees at least two accident victims a week. High-speed crashes and drink-driving are often the main culprits.

"One which I remember was a person in their early 20s who was driving home intoxicated after a party," Ms Steele recalled.

"This person lost control of their car, rolled down an embankment and suffered injuries which resulted in them being left paraplegic.

"The worst injuries I have seen have been from high-speed head-on collisions with another vehicle or impact with trees.

"Typical injuries from these types of accidents can include fractured femur bone, collapsed lung, major head injuries, ruptured spleen, all of which can lead to the patient dying."

Even the best training cannot eradicate the emotional impact on Ms Steele.

"I feel saddened, especially if an accident was due to careless behaviour, but you put that out of your mind and get on with the job," she said.

"It's not until you finish and go home at the end of a shift that the impact of seeing critically injured patients affects you.

"A lot of staff may have children or family of the same age and because we work in a rural hospital sometimes you may even know the person involved in the accident.

"It can be emotionally draining and a rollercoaster of emotions but all the staff in emergency are very supportive towards each other."

Ms Steele urged the region's drivers to do their best to get home safely.

"There are so many things I would like to tell them but, to cut a long story short, slow down and calm down," she said.

"Think before you get behind the wheel. If you're not in a fit state to drive, then don't."