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Intermountain Moms

Life Flight Opens New Maternal Transport Service

By Richard Nash

Oct 24, 2014


“The whole goal of our maternal team is to keep the baby in the oven,” says Carol Rhoades, RN, MSN, Life Flight’s Nursing Director. “We’ll do ground and air transports for women who are suffering from conditions ranging from pre-term labor, preeclampsia, or preterm premature rupture of the membranes to complicated maternal surgical or medical issues. And if the patient has the potential for delivery we’ll take a newborn nurse with us so we can resuscitate the baby.”

What’s a typical case like — and how does the new service benefit the community?
A typical case involves transporting a high-risk mom or baby to a facility that can provide specialized obstetrical or neonatal care. “We have the ability to provide swift, specialized intervention by bringing highly-skilled personnel and equipment to the referring facility,” Carol says. “We can also transport via ambulance if time isn’t as important. We recognize the high cost of helicopter transports and ground transport is a less expensive alternative when the need for speed isn’t in the equation. Our maternal/fetal medicine physicians will collaborate with
referring MDs to make that decision.”

The team is staffed by 11 specially-trained labor-and-delivery nurses from Intermountain Medical Center in Salt Lake City, 10 from Utah Valley Regional Medical Center in Provo, and 10 from Dixie Regional Medical Center in St. George. Dixie’s program will start up in November.

“They’ll continue to work in their Labor and Delivery jobs, and when we get a call they’ll run out to the helicopter and jump on,” Carol says. “The community will benefit because we’re located across the state rather than centralized. That puts us that much closer to getting a skilled and experienced team to mom and moving her to a hospital with additional resources. In addition, there’s only one other specialized high-risk OB team in the region, so if they’re on a transport there’s no back-up. Now pregnant patients throughout the West have faster access to high-risk obstetrical nurses.”

“I’m incredibly impressed with the experience level of the nurses on our team,” she adds. “I think our team members average well over 10 years of labor-and-delivery experience. We have a very seasoned, very professional group of nurses.”

What was it like to be on one of our first flights?
Life Flight’s new high-risk OB team was projected to care for between 70 and 100 patients a year, but they completed their first transport just three hours after the new service opened on September 18, and in their first week of service, they transported three patients. Shelley Jackman,RN, was the OB nurse on the first flight for the Intermountain Medical Center team. “The flight went very smoothly,” she says. “The patient was darling but scared to death, and I was able to be a nurse and comforter all at the same time. It was very rewarding. I’m really enjoying this new adventure at work.”

Shauna Hepworth, RN, Manager of Labor and Delivery at Intermountain Medical Center, says: “From a management perspective, we’re proud and excited to have this new team of capable labor-and-delivery nurses working in tandem with the Life Flight adult and neonatal teams to provide high-risk obstetric transport services to our community and the surrounding areas.”