'Best Job in the World': Spotlight on Teddy Bear Transport Team for National EMS Week
Cook Children's Teddy Bear Transport has extended the reach of the Cook Children’s Promise across the country – literally.
Wednesday marks National Emergency Medical Services for Children Day, which is a great time to spotlight one of the largest medical transport programs in the nation.
By Eline deBruijn Wiggins
For nearly 40 years, Teddy Bear Transport has extended the reach of the Cook Children’s Promise across the country – literally. This labor of love and commitment has taken patients and medical teams to-and-from Louisiana, Florida, New York, the West Coast and everywhere in between.
With about 4,000 transports each year, the Cook Children’s Teddy Bear Transport fleet is made up of seven ambulances, two fixed-wing aircraft (one jet and one turboprop), and one helicopter.
Most calls are in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, West Texas, East Texas and Oklahoma. The children transported are about 70% pediatric patients and 30% neonatal (less than 30 days old) patients.
“Many times we are their first experience with Cook Children’s and we take pride in being able to bring the very best care, that Cook is known for, to these patients and their families,” said Teddy Bear Transport RT Melinda Austin. “These people are beyond grateful and in some situations in these smaller towns, or sometimes larger cities where they do not have the resources to care for small children, we are their hope and so most people we run into are beyond grateful.”
The transport team brings referral patients to Cook Children’s, many times for the specialty clinics and doctors.
“Referring facilities and families are happy to see us because they know we’re bringing Cook Children’s to them,” said Teddy Bear Transport Director Stacy Putman. “Cook and our team have a great reputation and they’re excited to see us walk through their doors – our teams can feel that relief at times. The hard part is we don’t always have the answers that the families want. We reassure them that they’re going to the best place possible.”
The Teddy Bear Transport team is made of 16 neonatal/pediatric nurses, 15 respiratory therapists, 20 paramedics, 10 communications specialists, and two outreach educators. When a call comes in, the team determines which aircraft or vehicle to use based on the distance to the call, and each call receives a nurse, respiratory therapist and a paramedic.
“It’s the best job in the world. When I come in for my shift, I don’t know what I’m walking into or where I’m going that day,” said R.N. Stephanie Schmit. “We get to hop into one of our aircraft or ambulance and provide care to our patients. It is an exciting job. Every day is different, every call is different.”
Providing emergency medical care is a crucial job in itself – add on top of that the ability to provide care inside a small space on a moving aircraft. Schmit says the team works so closely together that when they’re treating a patient, they’re intuitive and can read what their colleague is going to do next.
“When we go up on the helicopter, it’s a nurse, paramedic and respiratory therapist, it’s just three of us,” Schmit said. “It’s us three and three backpacks, essentially, that we have to provide all the care. It’s a very small confined area. Sometimes we’re diving over each other to grab items and to give medicine. We work very well as a team, it’s a well-oiled machine.”
The transport team takes care of critical patients and has also been involved in transporting patients during emergency evacuations, such as Hurricane Harvey. The team members have been referred to as “the angels in blue jumpsuits.”
“Occasionally, we will get cards from families thanking us for taking care of their child, that is when we realize how meaningful our job is. For these families and patients, this is their worst day, but for us, it’s our every day, so we have to be reminded how meaningful our job really is,” Putman said. “We engrained in our team so much to just be nice and give the care that you would want to be given to your own child.”
“The team, they do it so well that they don’t even realize that they’re doing it until they get these cards. This is our everyday life,” Putman said. “There’s no better job than on the Teddy Bear Transport team.”
About Cook Children's
Cook Children’s Health Care System embraces an inspiring Promise – to improve the health of every child through the prevention and treatment of illness, disease and injury. Based in Fort Worth, Texas, we’re proud of our long and rich tradition of serving our community. Our not-for-profit organization is comprised of nine companies, including our Medical Center, Physician Network, Home Health company, Northeast Hospital, Pediatric Surgery Center, Health Plan, Health Services Inc., Child Study Center and Health Foundation. With more than 60 primary, specialty and urgent care locations throughout Texas, families can access our top-ranked specialty programs and network of services to meet the unique needs of their child. For 100 years, we’ve worked to improve the health of children from across our primary service area of Denton, Hood, Johnson, Parker, Tarrant and Wise counties. We combine the art of caring with leading technology and extraordinary collaboration to provide exceptional care for every child. This has earned Cook Children’s a strong, far-reaching reputation with patients traveling from around the country and the globe to receive life-saving pediatric care. For more information, visit cookchildrens.org.