July 11, 2017

When a patient is transferred to or from Texas Children’s Hospital, several wheels are set into motion to make the process run smoothly for our patients and their families.

People from various areas of the organization jump into action to make the best decision on where the patient needs to go and how they should get there.

For decades, the transfer process has prevailed using little to no technology to transfer an average of about 1,300 patients a year to and from Texas Children’s Hospital in the Medical Center, West Houston and The Woodlands. On April 19, all that changed with the opening of Texas Children’s Nerve Center, a communications hub for everyone involved in the transfer process and beyond.

“This is another great day at Texas Children’s Hospital,” said Texas Children’s President and CEO Mark A. Wallace at the center’s grand opening ceremony. “This Nerve Center is distinctive, innovative, forward thinking and a great example of the amazing leadership we have here at Texas Children’s.”

Equipped with state-of-the-art technology, the Nerve Center is located in a large, high-tech room on the third floor of Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women. Half of the room is occupied by representatives from the hospital’s security and facilities departments. The other half houses representatives from the departments of Room Management, Transport Services and Critical Care.

View photos of the Nerve Center below.

When a call about a transfer comes into the center, representatives from all teams work together to assure an efficient, rapid and accountable, transfer occurs that provides the highest quality and safest care possible for Texas Children’s high risk maternal, neonatal and pediatric population.

“We have all the people in the room we need,” said Assistant Director for Transport Services Deborah D’Ambrosio. “It’s so much easier to coordinate, be efficient and supportive to families in referring hospitals.”

One notable change made with the opening of the Nerve Center was the splitting of responsibilities for transfers and transports. Transfers deal with patients who are either coming or going to acute care and transports handle patients who are much sicker and either need a physician or a higher level of care while being moved to where they need to be. At the Nerve Center, transfer calls go to one team and transport calls go to another. The team that handles the transport cases includes a transport charge nurse and a critical care physician.

“At the Nerve Center, you have one directive and no distractions by competing interests,” said Dr. Mona McPherson, the Nerve Center’s medical director. “Your sole focus is on the transport team and getting the patient where they need to be safely and quickly.”

In addition to getting everyone in the same room and a few organizational tweaks, the biggest change to Texas Children’s transport process was the implementation of technology that enables everyone in the Never Center to do their job better.

When you step into the Nerve Center, there are many different pieces and types of technology. Each workstation has four monitors displaying information vital to the transport process. There is a huge LED display at the front of the room showing a list of patients coming and going from Texas Children’s, the location of all Texas Children’s ambulances, each of the organization’s two, soon to be three helipads, and census data. And, there are several systems operating behind the scenes that connect everyone in the room with the most up-to-date information needed to make the best decision possible about a patient coming to or leaving Texas Children’s.

“We’ve taken a department that was using very little technology to one that uses a lot in various ways, all of which are able to improve their outcome,” said Melissa Witt, a registered nurse and a senior system analyst for Texas Children’s Information Services. “We’re already seeing good results.”

During the first month the Nerve Center was launched, the Transfer Team reduced their time from dispatch to pick up by 20 minutes. It used to take the team 50 minutes to get out the door. Now it takes them 29 minutes. In addition, the number of transfers has gone up, breaking a record in May with 151.

“We’ve had more than one community ER doc say, ‘Wow, this is the easiest I’ve ever been able to get a child into Texas Children’s,” McPherson said. “And that really is our mission central here. We want to make people want to call us, not because we’re just good and give excellent care, but because it’s really easy to get a patient in here.”

November 24, 2015


Texas Children’s Kangaroo Crew unveiled its new state-of-the-art ambulances that replace the old fleet while significantly improving patient and crew safety during emergency transport to Texas Children’s Hospital.

“Our 6-year old ambulances were becoming less reliable,” said Texas Children’s Assistant Director of Transport Services Deborah D’Ambrosio. “Our transport team of registered nurses, registered respiratory therapists and emergency medical technicians designed these four ambulances keeping patient and crew safety as their number one priority.”

The new fleet includes a number of safety improvements:

  • Equipped with liquid spring suspension, patients and crew experience a smoother ride. This technology decreases vibrations and bumpiness on the road, which can impact a patient’s condition during transport and make it difficult for the crew to provide care while the vehicle is moving. This safety feature also reduces neck and back pain problems that staff previously reported with the old trucks.
  • The five-point safety harnesses allow the transport team to deliver patient care while secured in their seat belts. This new safety feature replaces the standard seat belts.
  • Instead of manually lifting a stretcher or isolette, the ambulances’ power load system easily performs this function with a push of a button.
  • The addition of radios and Wi-Fi connections allow the transport team to remain connected to Main Campus via Texas Children’s intranet for protocols and pharmacy references.
    Advanced GPS tracking system helps the transport team know the precise location of the ambulances. This system also features indicators that can be set to deliver messages regarding a driver’s performance while on transport.
  • Electronic monitors provide the transport team with a constant reading of oxygen levels in the tank replacing the manual system.
  • Additional safety features include back-up and turn cameras and airbags for airway seat.

The new ambulances also have a DVD player for the patient and outlets for families to charge their cell phones.

Texas Children’s Kangaroo Crew brings newborn babies and critically ill pediatric patients to Texas Children’s Hospital for expert care from all over the country. The crew performs more than 1,500 critical transports a year.

“As one parent described them, they are the Navy Seals of Texas Children’s,” said Texas Children’s Assistant Vice President of Nursing Gail Parazynski. “She is absolutely right. This team meticulously designed these new trucks to ensure our most fragile patients are safe while being transported to our hospital.”

Besides providing ground transport service, the Kangaroo Crew’s customized Cessna airplane transports critically ill newborn babies and children from throughout the United States and Central America to Texas Children’s Hospital.

November 17, 2015


The sound of helicopter blades chopping through the air will be a common occurrence at Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus now that the hospital’s helipad has been activated and staff has been trained on how to receive a patient arriving via air transport.

“We are very excited about the opportunity to have helicopters land at Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus,” said Dr. Jeanine Graf, the hospital’s chief medical officer. “It’s been an innovative first for Texas Children’s to begin bringing in children via rotacraft helicopter transport.”

Previously, patients coming to West Campus via helicopter would land at an adjoining facility and then be brought to Texas Children’s via ambulance. Having access to the hospital’s helipad will allow for faster transport and subsequently quicker treatment.

“It’s one more way for us to be there for every child no matter what their needs are,” Graf said, adding that all four predominant helicopter services in southeast Texas now know they can bring patients to Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus. In the near future, they also will be able to land at Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands and on the roof of Pediatric Tower E in the Medical Center.

Since late October, four patients have been brought to West Campus via the hospital’s helipad and many more are expected. Before activating the helipad, West Campus received between 10 and 20 helicopter transports a month from nearby facilities. “Now that patients can be brought straight to West Campus’ doorstep, there’s sure to be more and we are happy to be able to serve them,” Graf said.