Vanderbilt communications handling ambulance traffic coming to Metro hospitals


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — What’s it liked to be responsible for communicating with every ambulance coming to Nashville? With more than 50,000 ambulances a year coming to all hospitals, it’s an important and stressful job.

During a pandemic, it’s even more so. Robert Brooks has been in the life-saving business for almost half a century. For the last 16 years, he’s worked at the Vanderbilt Emergency Communcations Center located just off the helipad at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

“Right now there are four of us on duty. It’s almost impossible to have six feet of space, we have to be careful. Everyone wipes down our consoles each morning and at shift change,” said Brooks.

Brooks and his co-workers are like air traffic controllers for every ambulance or helicopter delivering patients to every hospital in Nashville.

“As far as traffic coming through when there is a known COVID patient we close all doors, this area is sealed off, if we know a COVID patient is coming through before they arrive we have to run to the bathroom because we are locked in,” said Brooks.

“So every hospital has a different process accepting a COVID patient. Here at Vandy, if it is a confirmed or suggested COVID-19 patient, we have a different way for them entering the hospital,” said Jerry Jones, “We don’t want them entering the ER and contaminating the rest of the patient population, so those questions have to be asked up front and a team has to be scrambled to meet the ambulance. That requires a lot of prep and questions up front and that can be stressful at times.”

If there is a silver lining, it’s that there has been less ambulance traffic during the COVID-19 pandemic. Jones says there have been less calls for service and fewer accidents and normal things that cause people to call for ambulances.

Jones also says that Vanderbilt Emergency Communicators dispatched and coordinated all the ambulances that came to the Sumner County nursing home disaster.

“We facilitated getting ambulances for that area so they were not stressed with that burden. It was already stressful enough.”

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