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NASCAR and Nursing

July 10, 2012

A health care career on the real fast track

NASCAR races are some of the most well-attended sporting events in the country. Tennessee’s own Bristol Motor Speedway seats up to 165,000 race fans and spectators each race day. NASCAR drivers race around the track at speeds nearing 200 mph, making these events very dangerous. In response to the big crowds and high speeds, racetracks nationwide staff nurses and other medical professionals to respond to medical emergencies both off and on the track.

Safety on the Track: A Racing Legend’s Death Causes Sport to Rethink Rules

The racing industry has been under scrutiny for many years as race fans and safety experts alike continue to debate the racing rules and regulations that maintain the excitement at the track while keeping drivers safe. The 2001 death of Dale Earnhardt, a racing legend, devastated the racing community and sparked national debate over the safety of the sport.

Although Earnhardt himself was a proponent of fewer regulations, many felt stronger safety measures on the track could have prevented his death. Earnhardt died after another driver bumped his left rear fender and sent him into a wall at the fourth turn in the last lap of the Daytona 500. This common racing tactic, called “bump drafting,” had come under scrutiny even before Earnhardt’s accident. Bump drafting allows drivers to pick up speed by reducing drag and receiving a bump forward from other drivers. For years leading up to Earnhardt’s accident, this risky maneuver had caused many wrecks on the racetrack, and it ultimately became illegal after Earnhardt’s 2001 death.

The ban of bump drafting was not the only change in racing after Earnhardt’s tragic death. NASCAR established a safety research and development center to devise new safety innovations to protect its drivers and spectators. Today, NASCAR continues to research ways to enhance and fine-tune its life-saving innovations since Earnhardt’s death, including protective seats, better belt systems, head restraints, energy-dissipating “soft walls” and more. NASCAR has also added new safety and medical personnel to racetracks and speedways across the country as part of the industry’s continued commitment to safety initiatives designed to protect its drivers and spectators.

NASCAR’s focus on safety has paid off in a big way in the decade since Earnhardt’s death. During the 10 years prior to Earnhardt’s death, 10 people had died at races in NASCAR’s three national series, including Sprint, Nationwide and Camping World Truck. In fact, Earnhardt was the fourth death on the racetrack in less than a year, which prompted much-needed action. However, in the years since the most famous driver died in the industry’s most famous race, no drivers or spectators have died in these three series. Enhanced safety regulations and on-track medical personnel have created a new and safer racing industry primed for high speeds and injury-free races.

A Career in the Fast Lane

Earnhardt’s death caused the racing industry to focus more on safety regulations and innovations. Since the 2001accident, NASCAR has made huge inroads toward making the sport safer for drivers while keeping the competitive spirit, rivalry and speed that racing fans love to watch. As part of its 2001 postseason safety overhaul, NASCAR hired several full-time medical positions, including a safety analyst and medical liaisons, all of whom play a vital role in the continued safety of NASCAR’s drivers and support team.

As a key member of the safety research and development team, the safety analyst helps investigate racing incidents, includingaccident reconstruction. The medical liaisons work with NASCAR’s three national series to collect and maintain detailed medical histories of the drivers at each race. They also coordinate medical services with the racetrack, drivers, crew members and local hospitals. Medical liaisons ensure an incident-free race day and build a bridge between all racing parties for effective and efficient communication in case of an emergency.

NASCAR has also added new safety and medical personnel to racetracks and speedways across the country, including the nursing professionals who serve as key members of the medical team on race day. NASCAR nurses staff the infield hospital and treat drivers, crew members, officials and spectators for major and minor medical emergencies. These nursing professionals must sometimes deal with fast-paced, high-stress medical situations, especially after a wreck, so they must be prepared for traumatic situations. Nursing professionals should have training and experience in emergency situations before beginning a career in the racing industry.

Whether you have a passion for the high-speed thrills of NASCAR or you want a diverse and exciting work environment, a career as a NASCAR nurse can put your nursing career on the fast track. Registered nurses (RNs) who have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) are better qualified for the fast-paced, high-stress NASCAR work environment, and an RN to BSN from King College could be your ticket to a career in the fast lane.