UC Health Air Care & Mobile Care Nurses Receive Florence Nightingale Team Award for Excellence

The UC Health Air Care & Mobile Care nursing team received the Florence Nightingale Award for Nursing Excellence this year.

Bill Hinckley, MD, medical director of UC Health Air Care & Mobile Care and associate professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, tells the full story of this award-winning nursing team in his nomination below.

“When the most critically ill and injured patients in Greater Cincinnati require care and transport outside the hospital, our region’s EMS and hospital systems call UC Health Air Care & Mobile Care (ACMC). Since its inception in 1984, Air Care has cared for and safely transported more than 45,000 patients, while Mobile Care has cared for and transported hundreds of thousands of patients. Through it all, the glue that has held our department together is our critical care transport nurses and nurse practitioners.

Critical care transport medicine nursing is, quite simply, as challenging as nursing gets. Resources are limited. Time, space and lighting are limited. Resuscitation that would gather 30 providers to the bedside—were it occurring within the hospital—is now managed by two, three or four extremely skilled folks, moving quickly down the highway or through the air, seat belted, surrounded by up to 110 decibels of noise to further challenge communication. Knowledge of the patient’s past medical history is often limited to nonexistent. It’s no secret that ground and air EMS providers face significantly increased risk of occupational injury or death. Facing that sort of environment—that sort of challenge—on a daily/nightly basis requires significant intrepidity and mettle.

In 2013, ACMC won the Program of the Year Award from the Association of Air Medical Services (AAMS), as the best critical care transport medicine program in North America. That same year, ACMC won the Department of Transportation’s Moral Courage Safety Award, for the rigor of our safety culture. In Nov. 2019 flight nurse Ellen Parsley and NP Jason Peng won the extraordinarily competitive international AAMS Sim Cup in Atlanta GA. I always say, “I’ll put our critical care transport nurses and NPs up against the very best in the entire world without hesitation,” and I most certainly mean it.

ACMC’s nurses and NPs have pushed the envelope regarding what’s possible in critical care outside the walls of the hospital. In 1984, we were one of the first programs in the world to fly with packed red blood cells (PRBCs), and in 2013, we became one of the first programs in the world to fly with plasma as well. About 10 years ago, Mobile Care began transporting extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) patients—cannulated and on the pump—and we remain the only program in the region capable of transporting those patients. We’ve pioneered the use of point-of-care bloodwork and ultrasound in transport. We were on the cutting edge with regard to protocolling the use of hypertonic saline for increased ICP, hydroxocobalamin for cyanide toxicity, and tranexamic acid for hemorrhagic shock. Air Care has procedural capabilities possessed by no other program in the region: lateral canthotomy, resuscitative hysterotomy, field amputation, Minnesota Tube for upper GI bleed and escharotomy. ACMC nurses and NPs have published at least five papers in peer-reviewed literature, investigating several of these advances in critical care transport medicine and pushing the envelope throughout the world.

But ultimately, the biggest impact ACMC nurses have had throughout the decades is on the thousands of patients and families they’ve touched directly. The most vulnerable state to which humanity may be subjected is to be critically ill outside the hospital. Those who find themselves in that situation need an expert clinician/logistician, if they’re going to have a chance at turning the corner and pulling through. But our ACMC nurses & NPs provide far more than just that. A held hand and a reassuring smile at 1,500 feet and 130mph. A ‘kiss’ from a stuffed animal for a frightened child in an ambulance. A hug, an update and a shared cry with a desperate family after bringing their loved one to the trauma center. This is the true essence of transport nursing.”

Three nurses from each nursing facet of UC Health Air Care & Mobile Care explained, in their own words, what makes the nursing program so unique.

Mary Ahlers, RN, Communication Center said: “I don’t think there’s anyone in our region in multiple states that can actually have the practitioners we have, nor deliver the care we do because of our expertise.”

Theresa VonBargen, RN, Mobile Care said:

“When I came to Mobile Care, I had backgrounds that I thought were sufficient after working as an Emergency Department nurse for 27 years. Then I came to Mobile Care, and the amount of education made me more intelligent and able to take care of the vast variety of patients we are called on, and we are expected to perform to that level.”

Diana Deimling, RN, Air Care said:

“One day we may have a three-year old child, the next day have someone who needs ECMO, and then have someone who is suffering from a trauma injury. People have to come into these roles with a huge amount of experience. This is not something you can do right out of school. You have to have an experienced background, and we even encourage nurses to have intensive care unit (ICU) and Emergency Department (ED) backgrounds to make them comfortable with the different patients we treat.”


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