New Miss. Critical Care Ambulance Fills in for Air Medical Crew
Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, Tupelo
July 31—North Mississippi Medical Center's new critical care transport may look like an ambulance on the outside, but it's designed to be an extension of its emergency department and intensive care unit.
The specialized ambulance and its team will focus on getting the critically injured and ill to NMMC-Tupelo from area hospitals and from Tupelo to higher levels of care in Memphis, Birmingham and Jackson. The critical transport team will fill a gap that opens when the Care Flight air ambulance is grounded because of bad weather or already out on a call.
"This will allow us to keep more ambulances in the counties," said Kathy Terrell, director of emergency services.
Right now, the hospital has to pull ambulances from their regular stations to provide critical care ground transports when Care Flight isn't available. A critical care transport can take six or seven hours, Terrell said. By comparison, an ambulance crew in Lee County can respond to a scene, transport to NMMC and be back in service in less than an hour in most cases.
On average, there are 30 to 40 requests for critical care transfers each month that Care Flight can't respond to, Terrell said. The critical care transport will be able to respond to many of those calls.
Although many large academic medical centers around the country have designated critical transport teams, the NMMC transport will be the second based in Mississippi, said Donna Pritchard, NMMC vice president of nursing.
Starting at 7 a.m. Aug. 6, the specially trained critical transport team will have an EMT-basic, paramedic and nurse on stand-by in the NMMC Emergency Department, Terrell said. They will help as needed in the emergency department, but won't be assigned patients so they can respond immediately to critical care transport.
Unlike regular ambulances, the critical care transport will be stocked with blood products and medications that expand blood volume, Terrell said. It carries a ventilator. The team will be able to sedate patients if needed and adjust pain medication. The transport will be able to accommodate larger patients than the medical helicopter.
The transport team is drawn from a pool of nurses, paramedics and emergency medical technicians who have gone through intensive training over the past two years, Terrell said. They have pulled in a number of tenured staff who had transitioned to part-time positions who were willing to take on more hours.
Many of the nurses on the team normally work in the emergency department, intensive care unit or Care Flight; some work in all three areas. They will work under protocols and the direction of a medical control physician.
Creating the critical care transport has been an effort that has stretched from the emergency department, intensive care unit and Care Flight and across departments.
"We all pooled our resources," Terrell said.
The hospital re-tasked an ambulance for the program. The ventilator and other equipment was redirected from departments around the hospital.
"Everything had to be built and designed from scratch," Terrell said. "We pulled in every resource we could."