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Children's Hospital Critical Care Transport Service Celebrates 40th Anniversary

COLUMBIA, Mo. — University of Missouri Children’s Hospital will celebrate the 40th anniversary of its pediatric transport service 10:30 a.m. Monday, Nov. 11, with a reception in the hospital’s main lobby at 404 Keene St.

“We’re proud of this milestone and for the opportunity to honor Dr. Elizabeth James, founder of the Children’s Hospital Critical Care Transport Service,” said John Pardalos, M.D., director of neonatology and medical director of the transport service. “Her dedication and efforts throughout the years not only made this service possible, but also allowed it to thrive.”

In 1973, James, then a neonatologist at University Hospital, helped initiate a new program to transport premature and critically ill infants from health facilities throughout mid-Missouri to the more specialized Columbia hospital.

Neonatology was just becoming a recognized subspecialty within the field of pediatrics when James joined University Hospital in 1971. She became the first neonatologist on staff and was instrumental in the development of the Newborn Intensive Care Unit that same year. James believed patient outcomes would improve even more if neonatal patients could be monitored and receive care while they were being transported from other hospitals to University Hospital’s NICU. As a result, she and her colleagues formed a dedicated neonatal transport service that used adult transportation vehicles until the late 1990s.

In 1999, the team expanded its role into a neonatal-pediatric transport service. Staff members received specialized training to be able to care for children of all ages during transport.

In 2000, a generous donation by Nancy and William Laurie of Columbia, Mo., allowed Children’s Hospital to purchase its first dedicated transport ambulance for babies and children.

The most recent addition to the service came in 2011 with a custom-built, state-of-the-art ambulance that features side-loading doors and a kid-friendly design. Funded through donations from 12 mid-Missouri Walmart and Sam’s Club stores, the new ambulance fulfills a critical role in providing rapid transport care to children throughout the state of Missouri.

Special features on board both Children’s Hospital ambulances include ventilators for babies and older children, cardiac monitoring equipment, intravenous pumps, mobile isolettes for infant transportation, pediatric stretchers and seating to allow parents to accompany their children en route. In addition, the ambulances feature kid-friendly décor, a television and a DVD player.

“Our service also utilizes the Staff for Life helicopter based at University Hospital when there is a critical need to expedite transportation of an unstable patient,” said Judy Bildner, R.N., M.C.-C.N.S., an advanced practice nurse at the hospital’s NICU and coordinator of the transport service. “Our 31-member transport team is highly skilled in perinatal, neonatal and pediatric transportation. The team is comprised of registered nurses, respiratory therapists and emergency medical technicians, and operates under the direction of neonatal and pediatric physicians.”  

Looking back, James is pleased with the evolution of the service she started in 1973 to what it has become today.

“It’s a great service,” James said. “It provides rapid response times and safe, efficient transport of both neonates and older children. The people who direct the team and those who are a part of the team are first-class. They give the highest quality of patient care and are responsible for the survival of many children in Missouri.”

The MU Children’s Hospital Critical Care Transport Service averages about 500 patient transports a year. Many of these transports require the team to travel two to three hours one way to pick up a patient needing highly specialized care at Children’s Hospital.