The Unexpected Benefit Of Teaching Regular People To Treat Gun Wounds Like The Military Does

As gun violence persists, residents are taking new measures to keep community members alive.

It can take less than 10 minutes for a gunshot victim to bleed to death, but it's not uncommon for it to take longer for police and paramedics to arrive on the scene of a shooting.

That's why a new program called Fighting Chance is being deployed all over Philadelphia to help teach residents how to treat victims of traumatic injuries like gunshot wounds. Scott Charles, Temple University's trauma outreach coordinator, is helping facilitate the classes.

"We were blown away by the reaction to the program," Charles told A Plus. "I don't know what I expected but I didn't expect it to be as lighthearted as it was. The people got really into it, and I hate to say that something so serious was fun but... it was kind of fun."

 TUH nurse Aisha Washington demonstrating how to properly use a tourniquet.
 TUH nurse Aisha Washington demonstrating how to properly use a tourniquet. Temple University Health System

That mood was also reflected in a recent NPR piece on the program, which discussed the energy in the room as community members acted out emergency scenarios and went through the steps of a fake rescue. But it was also an unexpected outcome of the program, one nobody saw coming.

"You see neighbors that know each other by name or site  but haven't really interacted," Charles said. "But now are working together at least imagining trying to save someone's life. It's really good community building."

The chance to relax and to deal with a real issue in a comfortable environment was probably welcomed with open arms by the citizens of a city that has seen so much bloodshed. 

TUH nurse Amanda McMacken showing participants how to slow down the bleed.
TUH nurse Amanda McMacken showing participants how to slow down the bleed. Temple University Health System

14,500 people have been shot in Philadelphia since 2006. In other words, the city's sustained one shooting every six hours, according to And that rate is actually an improvement. In 2006, 2,004 people were shot over the course of the year. By 2015, that number had dropped to 1,238. The Fighting Chance intentionally targets neighborhoods that have seen higher rates of gun violence than usual.

The training program was created by Dr. Tim Bryan, a veteran of U.S. Special Operations and an emergency room doctor who worked closely with Charles to get Fighting Chance off the ground. 

In Bryan's spirit, the program helps teach military techniques that can be learned in a couple of hours. Things like positioning someone so it's easier for them to breathe or using a shirt as a tourniquet can be the difference between life and death. And with Fighting Chance being taught throughout Philadelphia, residents of the city are becoming a lot more likely to know how to employ these techniques.

Charles, who lost a close friend and a man he described as a "surrogate father" to gun violence, said that there is no reason so many people should die from gun violence in such an affluent society. He sees value in the program because it promotes life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, virtues that we are supposed to live by in America. Which means we should prevent bad things that we have the means to prevent.

So far, the program has trained over 250 people. While getting someone the help they need is a primary goal, they also have to teach self-protection: the last thing Fighting Chance volunteers and trainers want to see is someone getting in harm's way, exposing themselves to blood and blood-born pathogens, or getting in the middle of gang violence. Still, it isn't just violent groups involved in shootings.

"An assumption is being made that people who are being shot deserved to be shot," Charles said. "I see a lot of people who are getting shot that had nothing to do with anything... Grandmothers, kids, there's no reason we shouldn't be training community members on how to save friends and family members."

And if that training strengthens relationships between residents? That's worthwhile in and of itself.

(H/T: NPR)