HAMPTON ROADS — The Sentara Nightingale Regional Air Ambulance program is celebrating the fortieth anniversary of the program’s first flight.
The Nightingale first took off on Feb. 25, 1982. The initial flight mission flew a patient with an intracranial bleed from Virginia Beach General Hospital to the Naval Medical Center in Portsmouth. In its first year, the Nightingale program flew 286 patient missions.
In the forty years since, the Nightingale has flown more than 24,000 patient flights. The program has helped patients to reach the closest and most appropriate hospital in situations when time matters most.
“We’re honored to serve the community,” said Nightingale Program Manager and Flight Nurse Denise Baylous. “There’s something about helping someone in their time of need that just is one of the best things I think you can ever do. I think all of our team feels that way.”
The efforts to create the program began in 1981 when Edward M. Homles II, the Administrator of Sentara Leigh Memorial Hospital, came up with a concept and began developing an air ambulance service located at Sentara General Hospital.
Holmes was supported by Glenn Mitchell, the late CEO of Sentara, and Physicians Ron Brown and Frank Yeiser. On Oct. 6, 1981, Holmes trademarked the services as “Nightingale” to both honor the nurse and to capture the idea of a friendly bird that flies at night.
“We’ve advanced so much over the years. I’ve been with the program 20 years now,” said Baylous. “Just the safety advancements that we’ve done, and the training that we’ve done to become better providers, making certain that we’re on the front, cutting-edge of what we do to help people in the community.”
When the program began, it was the 38th air medical program of its kind in the U.S. and was the second hospital-based program in Virginia.
A typical flight mission will feature one pilot, a nurse, and a single paramedic onboard. However, the entire Nightingale team consists of dispatchers, mechanics, pilots, nurses, and paramedics. In total, there are 32 team members that work within the Nightingale program.
According to Sentara’s website, “Nightingale is a fully functional critical care unit with advanced equipment and abilities that include a ventilator, EKG and defibrillators, an intra-aoritic balloon pump, and an ultrasound machine.”
The program flies more than 700 missions per year with its home base located at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital. This location features a rooftop helipad with its own fueling station.
The program covers a 125-mile radius and handles trauma, cardiac, neurological, medical, pediatric, and obstetric patients. Regions serviced by this program include the Historic Triangle, Richmond, Charlottesville, Ocracoke Island, N.C., Washington D.C., and Virginia’s Eastern Shore.
For more information on the Nightingale Program, please visit Sentara’s website.