Inside the World of NICU Ambulances: Saving Lives on the Move


Emergency medical services are a normal thing when it comes to health care, there are all sorts of ambulances depending on the patient’s needs. Regular ambulances or other ambulances such as ICU ambulances, are for adults, but what about the neonatal babies? How would one transfer a critical newborn from one place to another without any risks? This is where NICU ambulances come in.


NICU ambulances are a miniature version of the Neonatal intensive care unit. These ambulances are completely equipped to take intensive care of only newborn children.

What distinguishes a NICU Ambulance from a standard emergency medical vehicle in terms of equipment and facilities?

NICU ambulances are way more advanced and heavily equipped than standard emergency medical vehicles. A regular ambulance will be equipped with minor but mandatory equipments such as, gloves, pulse oximeter, stethoscope, oxygen cylinder, oxygen mask, oxygen
key, ECG monitor, blood pressure cuffs, spinal board, defibrillator,
sedatives, bandages and some other larger or smaller equipment depending
on the patient’s condition; whereas,
NICU ambulances have more advanced
equipments focussing completely towards newborn or neonatal babies. For
instance,      Ventilation: There are special ventilators (including high frequency ventilators) for
the babies, as many of them have some sort of breathing difficulties which cannot be treated by normal ventilation, so it is vital to have ventilators which are specially made for their care.

      Active cooling units

      Nasal cannula

      Intubation

      Nitric oxide: This is for the babies who suffer from pulmonary hypertension

      Cardiac monitoring: It also has cardiac  monitors which constantly checks on the babies for any vital signs or changes.

      Temperature: The ambulances maintain the correct temperature for the babies and are able to keep them warm at all times.

      Vascular access: Vascular access procedures can be done while on board if needed.

      Medical team on board: Doctors and nurses are another major difference between regular and NICU ambulances. In NICU ambulances it is vital  to have two emergency medical technicians (EMTs), one nurse, and one respiratory therapist on board at all times. 

How do NICU Ambulances ensure the safety and well-being of critically ill or premature infants during transit?

The medical teams assigned in every NICU ambulance are extensively experienced and are trained in specialised care of critically ill or premature infants during transit. The ambulance team nurses are specialised to intubate, manage advanced ventilators, including the high frequency ventilators, they can place advanced vascular access, and also initiate inhaled nitric oxide for babies with pulmonary hypertension.

The team of nurses and the emergency medical technicians (EMTs) provide a constant neonatal inter-hospital critical care support during the entire transit form their homes to the hospitals, and to top it off, the team will be supervised by a hospital neonatologist if the condition of the newborn requires it. The NICU ambulances ensure that the babies arrive safely and out of risk at the hospital.

What technological advancements have improved the capabilities and success rates of NICU Ambulances?

When we think about NICU ambulances, we immediately think of an ambulance that would have everything that an NICU of a hospital does, but this was not the case even a few years back, these changes were made gradually, with patience and time. Now these ambulances have ventilation (high frequency ventilation), cardiac monitoring, nasal
cannula, intubation, artificial manual breathing unit (neonatal), active cooling units, temperature regulator for the neonate, basically everything that is essential to save a baby’s life. In addition, along with these equipment, NICU ambulances also have a specialised team, who are trained to operate these equipment. More technological advancements are being made to make these transits smoother. Wi-fi and other appliances are being equipped that would allow ambulance staff to have a video consultation with hospital physicians at all times.

How does the training and qualifications of medical personnel differ when working in a NICU Ambulance setting?

The medical team that are assigned to NICU ambulances are extensively trained to handle these emergency situations. They are specifically and professionally qualified and trained to deal with and take care of neonatal babies who are in need of intensive care. They are specialised in handling the advanced equipment that are installed in the NICU ambulances specifically for the newborns. These medical personnels go through thousands of hours of training just to properly put a patient on board, therefore, their training to actually treat the patients (newborns) are far more extensive.

Can you discuss the challenges involved in providing specialised care while transporting neonates via NICU Ambulances?

Transportation of neonates is an extremely challenging job, firstly, because of the type of patients that they deal with. It is a great deal of responsibility to make sure that every neonate reaches the hospital safely without any further complications. Secondly, it requires a high level of professionally trained set of teams to make sure that every child gets the proper treatment they need, in every transit. The medical team on board needs to be extensively trained to be perfect at what they do because a child’s life depends on it, and it takes a great deal of time and people who would want to serve solely to ambulance needs, Thirdly, The financial aspect is another challenge that NICU ambulances involve. This type of ambulances that require such advanced level of equipment to function, needs regular maintenance and hence, needs a considerable amount of financial boost.
All these challenges aside, NICU ambulances serve the best possible treatment, and the critical care they need, before reaching the real expertise. The team dedicates themselves to the purpose of saving tiny, fragile lives on the move.

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