040214 - DR Horton Emerald
April 23, 2014

Volume 36 | Number 6

Elite Ambulance Crews Train to Transport Critical Care Patients

LOOK AND LEARN—Keith Gates, M.D., far right, assistant professor of emergency
medicine at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston, demonstrates a
medical procedure during a new course in Houston that trains paramedics and
nurses to transport critically ill patients. (Photo by Dwight Andrews)


By Ronda Wendler  |  Texas Medical Center News

When every second counts, paramedics responding to medical emergencies can be lifesavers.

But when critically ill or injured patients who are already in the hospital need to be transferred by ambulance to another medical facility for a higher level of care, an ordinary ambulance and regular paramedic won’t do.

“Most people think ambulances rush to medical emergencies, but there’s another type of ambulance – one equipped with an elite crew, specially trained to transport critical care patients between hospitals, specialty referral centers, and extended care facilities,” said Keith Gates, M.D., assistant professor of emergency medicine at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston.

Gates is medical director for a two-week course under way at the medical school where paramedics and registered nurses are learning the skills needed to perform inter-facility transports, moving very sick patients via ground or air ambulance from one health care facility to another for further care and treatment.

The Critical Care Emergency Medical Transport Program, developed at the University of Maryland, provides “post graduate education” for paramedics and nurses, and is the first nationally recognized course of its kind. Several health care institutions around the country have obtained site licenses to teach the course, including The University of Texas Medical School at Houston which began offering the program this year.

“Paramedics and nurses routinely participate in inter-facility transports involving complex medical patients, yet they receive little formal training in the assessment, monitoring and management of those patients,” Gates said. “This program helps to prepare these emergency care professionals to serve with competence and confidence during these transfers.”

In class, students perfect the skills necessary to keep critical care patients stable during transport. They learn how to manage ventilators, administer blood transfusions, insert IVs, keep airways open, treat sepsis, manage burns and high-risk obstetric cases, keep pain under control, and much more.

Class members are taught to use the equipment in critical care transport ground and air ambulances – the same kind of equipment found in hospital intensive care units.

Because critical care ambulances are stocked with a vast array of medications to care for virtually every type of medical condition, students learn how to administer the same medications patients receive at the hospital.

“By the time students complete the course, they’re highly sought after,” said Chivas Guillote, an ICU nurse at Memorial Hermann-TMC and site coordinator for the UT Medical School course. “Their skills are extremely specialized.”

The inaugural UT Medical School class attracted attendees near and far, including James McDaniel, a paramedic for Saudi Aramco in Saudi Arabia; Joe Williams, a paramedic attached to security forces at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul; Linda Sanderson, a nightshift paramedic tech at Methodist Sugar Land Hospital; Josh Hearn, a paramedic with the Alaska Regional Flight Program; and John Seydel, a search-and-rescue medic in Afghanistan.

Seydel said he enrolled in the program “to help transport critical care patients during the Army’s withdrawal from Afghanistan.”

Faculty in the Houston course are drawn from many Texas Medical Center institutions, and include physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists, and other clinical specialists with extensive experience in critical care.

The course is taught at the UT Medical School and at the Harris County Emergency Corps-Education Center near George Bush Intercontinental Airport.

Students who complete the curriculum and pass an exam receive CCEMTP, or Critical Care Emergency Transport Program, certification from the Continuing Education Coordinating Board for Emergency Medical Services.

For more information visit www.uth.tmc.edu/uth_orgs/emer_med/cct.

Deborah Mann Lake contributed to this story

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