Specialized talent responsible for transportation of precious cargo

September 13, 2012

Since 1990, the neonatal paediatric transport team at London Health Sciences Centre has been helping transport a family’s most precious cargo during a very vulnerable time. The neonatal paediatric transport team is on call 24-hours a day to assist provincial emergency air and ground transport teams with the transport of patients who have highly complex medical situations.

The team helps transport approximately 200 patients a year from northwestern and southwestern Ontario to LHSC’s paediatric critical care unit, neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and Children’s Hospital. “We strive to focus on the patient as well as the family during what is often a very difficult time,” says Ernie Matchett, registered respiratory therapist, LHSC. “A majority of the time we are able to bring a parent or guardian with us during the transport of their child.”

Once the parent and child arrive at LHSC, they are given access to a “parent room” where they, and other family members, can rest. Parents also have the option of staying at the Ronald McDonald House if their child will be in hospital for an extended period.

There are 27 team members, but only two, a registered nurse (RN) and respiratory therapist (RT) are responsible for successfully transporting a child at a time. During a transport, the RN and RT are joined by two paramedics and either two pilots or drivers. The registered therapist is responsible for the airway and breathing of the child and the registered nurse is responsible for ensuring blood circulation.

“We were the first hospital in Ontario using an RN and RT model for our transport team,” says Matchett. “Other transport teams use an RN/RRT, RN/RN, or physician model, but it can be difficult to pull a physician away from the bedside in a timely manner.”

Training to be a member of the neonatal pediatric transport team is intense.  Over the course of one to two years the RN and RT will receive hands-on clinical training, observe experienced team members during transports and finally participate in peer certification. Team members also regularly receive continuing education after certification. They are also required to work regular shifts in the pediatric critical care unit and NICU during and after their training to keep their skills honed.

“During our day, or night, we are always ready to leave for a patient transport at a moment’s notice,” says Matchett. “But we enjoy working at the bedside between patient transports.”