By air and by ground, Mercy has formed a new, 24-hour team to bring specialized care to children being transported to Mercy Kids in Springfield.
“They are not little adults. They may be smaller, but their needs can be much different,” said Teri Sickmyre, RN, Mercy Kids transport manager. “We need to treat them as a special population. An adult being brought in might be a little nervous. But for a child, it can be horrifying, even if it’s for a procedure.”
Sickmyre leads the dedicated Mercy Kids Transport Team, complete with seven other registered nurses and seven registered respiratory therapists – all experienced, well-vetted and ready for a new mission. Effective May 1, Mercy’s “Day of the Child,” and moving forward, the team will handle not only neonatal but also pediatric (children under 18) transports around the clock from facilities across southwest Missouri and northwest Arkansas.
“It will be the first team of this caliber in this region,” said D.J. Satterfield, administrative director of Mercy’s Life Line flight program. “We’ll reach the Kansas border, near Joplin, as far south as Rogers, then east to Rolla, West Plains and Mountain Home.”
“We opened the team up to experienced nurses and respiratory therapists here at Mercy, to see if they wanted to learn and grow,” said Sickmyre. “About half of our NICU team chose to be part of it, and some of our Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) nurses joined us as well. All of our respiratory therapists had experience in both areas.” Two of the nurses on the team each have 30 years of experience with children in an intensive care setting. “Each team member needed to have at least three years experience in the NICU or PICU.”
Once chosen, team members spent several days in a classroom and went through 280 hours of clinical time, split between various departments in which they’ll be intertwined. When not on a transport, the team will be responding to pediatric codes, rapid response, and anywhere in the hospital that cares for pediatric patients. “The team will be a specialized wing of an already established emergency medical services network with EMS and Life Line,” added Satterfield.
“This has been my dream job since day one of nursing school,” said neonatal nurse Drew Boyts, one of two men on the transport team. “Before, we never really did have a specialized pediatric transport. This way, we have a specific team designed and used to taking care of kids. We know what our doctors want, so it’s safer care for all patients.”
The team will operate on a phone system that will link both referring and accepting physicians, “so there won’t be any room for delay,” added Sickmyre. “We know this is a family process. The whole family is affected. Regardless of whether it’s stitches or a life-threatening injury, we want this team to be sensitive to children and their families.”
The team’s designated ambulance, known as “Kids 1,” has pediatric and neonatal specific medical equipment “It’s a mini ICU,” said Sickmyre, complete with resuscitation equipment to meet the needs of 23-week gestation infants up to 18-year-olds. “There are different ways to resuscitate patients of every age. Their needs are much more varied than the adult population.”
“It will also be loaded down with everything special for kids,” added Boyts. “We plan to have a portable DVD set, coloring books, games, and more. There will be lots of distractions to keep the children comfortable.”
This is Mercy’s second children’s transport team; Mercy Hospital St. Louis launched its team two years ago. “We’ve worked closely with them to get our policies, protocols and procedures in step,” said Sickmyre. “We’ve also had mentorship from legacy hospitals across the nation, because it’s an awesome responsibility that we don’t take lightly. It won’t just be a transport team, but a successful, stellar transport team.”
Team members will have designated Mercy Kids flight suits to wear similar to those worn by Life Line crews. “We’re ready and antsy to get to work,” said Boyts. “We want to provide this community with the best care possible.”