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On the job: Jennifer Mullen, trauma program coordinator

On the job: Jennifer Mullen, trauma program coordinator

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GARY | "My pager just went off that there's a trauma coming in," Jennifer Mullen said, exiting her office in the Methodist Hospitals Northlake Campus emergency department on a recent day.

Mullen hustled over to a nearby trauma bay where, moments later, emergency responders wheeled in a crash victim from Crown Point. "Deep breath in and out," someone said. Mullen started taking notes.

"What do you need?" she asked one of the paramedics from Crown Point Fire Rescue. She retrieved the requested supplies to restock his ambulance.

She talked to physicians and nurses, one of whom typed frantically on a computer as machines droned on repetitively in the background.

"I like to make sure everything's working smooth," Mullen said outside later, watching the ambulance pull away.

Even though Gary Methodist was only designated a Level III trauma center in September, Mullen arrived in her position a little more than two years ago so she could help get the program up and running. The Hammond native and self-described "Region girl" was thrilled about the prospect of shaping emergency care in the area.

"Who gets the opportunity to have such a big hand in something that makes a difference for the community where they grew up?" she said.

Despite the rewards, the job can at times be emotionally trying.

"Some days it feels like it never ends. You hear and see some pretty bad things, and they're not always easy to shake at the end of the day," Mullen said.

Mullen, a registered nurse, is responsible for the day-to-day oversight of the program, working in coordination with the trauma medical director and trauma data coordinator. Her job includes assisting with patient care, educating her fellow nurses and doing community outreach to try to prevent traumatic injuries from happening in the first place.

"I wear a lot of different hats, which is the beauty of this and why no two days are exactly the same," she said.

She stays busy. Methodist's trauma volume has roughly doubled in the past year, the result of a state rule requiring that patients with serious injuries be taken to the nearest trauma center. Since the Gary hospital is currently the only such facility in Northwest Indiana, it now receives patients from all of Lake and parts of Porter and Newton counties.

"You're at the bedside when people are having babies and they're taking their last breaths, and everything in between," Mullen said. "And it's an honor to be there."

How she got the job: Mullen worked in a variety of fields -- from nannying to banking to advertising -- before, at the age of 30, deciding she wanted to pick one and stick with it. She went back to school, for nursing, and after graduation got a job as an emergency-room nurse at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. She eventually became that facility's trauma coordinator. She was happy at Northwestern but after a recruiter kept contacting her about an opening for the same position at Methodist, she eventually agreed to an interview. And that was that.

What the job pays: The salary range is $65,000 to $92,000 a year, according to Methodist Hospitals. 

Job growth: The U.S. Department of Labor predicted employment of medical and health services managers would grow by 23 percent, or much faster than the average profession, between 2012 and 2022. In addition, several other Northwest Indiana hospitals are currently applying to become trauma centers.

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Health Reporter

Giles is the health reporter for The Times, covering the business of health care as well as consumer and public health. He previously wrote about health for the Lawrence (Kansas) Journal-World. He is a graduate of Northern Illinois University.

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