By Kathy Hostetter, RRT, RCP, Registered Respiratory Therapist, Brenner Children’s Hospital Critical Care Transport

I guess you could say my job is a bit out of the ordinary. I’m a registered respiratory therapist with Brenner Children’s Hospital Critical Care Transport Team. I work with a talented medical crew, including a registered nurse and an EMT driver. Together, we ensure neonatal and pediatric patients in need of urgent care are transferred safely to Brenner Children’s Hospital from other hospitals in the region. It’s work that is thrilling, meaningful—and, yes, sometimes highly stressful.

About Brenner’s Critical Care Transport

Our critical care transport system exists to bring sick babies and children quickly to Brenner Children’s Hospital, while keeping them as stable as possible on the way. We strictly do interfacility transports, which means we only pick up patients from other hospitals and medical clinics. We work primarily within the northwest Piedmont region, going as far north as Martinsville and as far west as Boone and West Jefferson.

Brenner Critical Care Transport is a service that is both reactive and proactive. We are on call should any facility contact us with an emergent need; however, we also coordinate with hospitals to be on the scene ahead of time. This often happens when a hospital has a patient in premature labor. The facility will dispatch us right away so that we are there when the baby is born. This way, we can get the infant to the Brenner Children’s Hospital NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) without delay. Because my registered nurse partner and I are both trained in neonatal care, we often assist with any post-delivery care needed (such as resuscitation) on the scene.

Once we have the baby or child in our truck, my partner and I provide needed care for the patient as our driver takes us safely back to Brenner. Our truck is fully stocked with medical equipment of all sizes so that we can assist patients from the newborn stage all the way up to age 18.

Emergency situations are unpredictable, so sometimes we have an active day when we’re on the road a lot. Other days, things are a bit slower, so my partner and I assist, as needed, in the Brenner NICU, PICU (pediatric intensive care unit) and pediatric emergency department. Each day we also give thorough attention to equipment checks and restocking so that we’re fully prepared to hit the road as soon as our pager goes off. Our team is on call from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. After that, our night-shift team takes over.

Always Meaningful, Never Mundane

I joined the Brenner Children’s Hospital Critical Care Transport Team in 1990. In the nearly three decades I’ve been doing this, there has rarely been a dull moment. In fact, I can’t imagine a job less mundane than mine!

Even though I’ve been doing this for years—and was assisting premature babies in neonatal respiratory care before I joined critical care transport—I frequently still experience high adrenaline during a call. However, I’m very comfortable working with our patients, and I have a lot of confidence in my partner and our team. Throughout a transport, we are in constant communication with the appropriate neonatologists or pediatric specialists at Brenner, and their respective teams are fully prepared to take over as soon as we arrive. Keeping our patients as stable as possible so that they can get to Brenner and receive excellent care is the heart of what we do.

I don’t remember every patient we’ve helped over the years, but there are a few who stick out in my mind. One case is particularly memorable. Years ago, our team picked up a sick baby in Boone. I remember being at his bedside when he passed away at Brenner. This memory came up again recently when we were contacted by his mother. She had written a book about her family’s experience and wanted to track down my former partner and me because of the impact we had on their family during such a difficult time in their lives. Earlier this year, she stopped by with the book, and I got to see her again.

That’s an experience that will always stay with me, but it’s the day-to-day events of my job that keep me most motivated. When it’s just my partner and me in the back of the truck doing everything we can to help our patient, that’s when I know why I do this job.

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