Wednesday, January 11, 2012
VCU LifeEvac Celebrates 10 Years
Patient safety, education and relationships with community partners remain among top priorities
VCU Communications and Public Relations
Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center’s LifeEvac program,
the Richmond area's preeminent air medical transport service for
critically ill or injured patients, recently reached 10 years of
In 2001, the VCU Medical Center, a Level I trauma center, partnered
with Denver-based Air Methods Corp., the largest air medical provider in
the world, to create a much-needed critical care service that could
provide safe air medical transportation for critical patients throughout
Virginia and portions of North Carolina. Responding to accident scenes
by air allows hospitals to transfer patients to tertiary care facilities
in a safe and timely manner.
In its inaugural flight on
Sunday, Oct. 14, 2001, VCU Life Evac flew 65 miles to Southside
Community Hospital in Farmville to bring a patient with a head injury
back to the VCU Medical Center. The trip — which would have taken about
two hours by ground ambulance — took less than one hour in the Life Evac
“I think LifeEvac is viewed very favorably by both
our partners in referring hospitals and by EMS and rescue agencies,”
said Harinder Dhindsa, M.D., associate professor in the Department of
Emergency Medicine and medical director of LifeEvac. “The fact that we
can bring evidence-based treatment guidelines developed by the various
clinical service lines at VCU and implement them in another hospital's
ICU — or at a car crash on the side of the road in the middle of the
night — means that our patients benefit from all that the VCU Health
System has to offer, even before they arrive at our hospital.”
Over the past decade, demand for air patient transports increased and
LifeEvac Virginia formed partnerships with two additional health systems
in order to meet the demands of the changing health care system in
Virginia. In 2005, VCU LifeEvac relocated to Dinwiddie County Airport in
Petersburg to better serve its customers, save time on responses and
expand coverage to rural localities and community hospitals.
Also that year, VCU LifeEvac upgraded its technology with a new
state-of-the-art helicopter that became the first medical helicopter in
the region equipped with night-vision-goggle capabilities. It also was
the only air transport service in the area that could handle a
heart-saving balloon pump and a biventricular pump at the same time.
VCU LifeEvac has since completed numerous missions in Virginia and
beyond, averaging approximately 600 flights per year. VCU LifeEvac bases
operate 24/7 and each helicopter includes a critical care nurse, a
critical care paramedic and pilot. The program maintains a strong
presence in the community by participating in community events.
“Once we got past our initial startup phase, the program made a
conscious effort to focus on education and outreach,” said Dhindsa.
“Over the past decade, LifeEvac personnel, in conjunction with VCU
faculty and staff, have offered thousands of free continuing education
credits to our referring EMS agencies and hospitals.
especially proud of the fact that we have been able to serve a large
number of rural EMS agencies that do not have the resources or
infrastructure for continuing education,” Dhindsa said.
LifeEvac program teaches EMS providers the Brain Trauma Foundation's
evidence-based guidelines for traumatic brain injury in an effort to
help improve outcomes in this population. In addition, LifeEvac helps
elevate the safety of medevac operations throughout central Virginia by
providing landing zone safety classes to hundreds of EMS providers.
VCU LifeEvac team members speak at regional, state, national and
international conferences on patient care transport and emergency
medical care. In conjunction with Air Methods, the program focuses on
high-fidelity patient simulation to train for high-risk situations.
“The strength of this team lies in our paramedics, nurses and pilots,”
said Dhindsa. “They represent the VCU Health System when we go out on a
scene call or to another hospital. We consistently receive extremely
positive feedback about their customer service as well as their clinical
care. Their level of dedication to their job and the patients we serve
For more information, visit www.lifeevac.com.