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LifeFlight expands critical care transport to ground ambulances

Aug. 28, 2019, 9:06 AM

Vanderbilt LifeFlight’s new specialized ambulances are able to provide critical care to adult patients.
Vanderbilt LifeFlight’s new specialized ambulances are able to provide critical care to adult patients. (photo by Anne Rayner)

by Jerry Jones

For the past 35 years, Vanderbilt LifeFlight has offered critical care air transport via one of its aircraft and has now expanded that ability to include ground transports via one of its two new, large specialized ground ambulances.

The new ambulances will help provide care to adult patients when they can’t be flown due to severe weather and adult patients who have conditions that don’t require emergent air transport. The ambulances will not replace the current neonatal and pediatric critical care ambulances operated by Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt — they will operate in a similar manner but focus the care on adult patients.

Much like on a LifeFlight helicopter, a dedicated specialized team of three will provide care for adult patients on the new ambulances. (photo by Anne Rayner)

Much like on a helicopter, a dedicated specialized team of three will provide care for these patients — consisting of an advanced emergency medical technician, a critical care paramedic and a critical care nurse from the adult emergency department.

One critical care ambulance will be staffed 24/7, while the other will serve as backup. The ambulance is based at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and will respond to a 150-mile radius from the hospital. Additionally, it will be able to transport LifeFlight patients transported via airplane from the Nashville airport to the destination hospital.

“We are very excited to be able to offer this to our patients and transferring hospitals,” said Jeanne Yeatman, RN, MBA, EMT, Associate Nursing Officer for Vanderbilt LifeFlight. “We’ve been working on this project for the last several years and we are so happy to see it come to fruition.”

One set of patients who will benefit from this new mode of transport are those who need extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) treatment. This is a specialized procedure that uses a pump to circulate blood through an artificial lung back into the bloodstream. ECMO acts as an artificial heart and lung for a patient during ECMO therapy.

“We are thrilled to be able to partner with our colleagues in the Vanderbilt Heart and Vascular Institute to be able to train our expert staff and work with the VUMC ECMO teams,” said Stephan Russ, MD, associate chief of staff for VUMC.

The mode of transport typically used for ECMO patients includes helicopter, fixed-wing plane, or ambulance and depends on several factors including distance and weather. LifeFlight will now be able to quickly determine what is best for the patient and mobilize the best team and transport option. With the additional two ground specialized ambulances, LifeFlight has a fleet of 22 transport vehicles — 13 ground ambulances, eight helicopters and one airplane.

Critical care ground transport can be arranged by any transferring facility by calling 866-803-4307.

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