News & Events

New Blood Gas Program Improves Patient Safety on NICU Transports


The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) often transports newborn babies to the hospital from as far away as Martha’s Vineyard. Since these trips can take up to four hours, it is extremely important for the transport team to accurately assess a fragile baby’s condition en route to the hospital so the appropriate care can be provided as quickly and efficiently as possible. To further enhance the safety of these neonates, the NICU, in conjunction with the Departments of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and Respiratory Care, implemented a blood gas program, which provides the transport team with new tools to maintain a baby’s stability on the way to Tufts MC or in community settings.

The new program allows the transport team to measure blood glucose or arterial blood gases and analyze tiny blood sample at the bedside, with nearly instantaneous results. This “point of care testing” saves valuable time that previously would have been spent drawing a larger volume of blood, sending samples to the lab and waiting for results at the community hospital.

“The blood gas program drastically speeds up this process, so transport teams can rapidly respond to the babies’ needs,” said NICU Clinical Nursing Leader Sally Syke, RN. “A lot of time and effort goes into successful point of care testing, but the unquestioned improvement in patient care makes it all worthwhile.”

Funded by donations to the NICU, the blood gas program is the result of months of preparatory work from a host of people across several departments, including Syke, Assistant Director of Respiratory Care Donna Kelly and Department of Pathology, Laboratory Medicine Point of Care Testing Coordinator Joe Valencia and Chief of the Division of Newborn Medicine Jonathan M. Davis, MD, who was the driving force behind securing the program’s funding.  The team had to purchase equipment and perform the necessary validations to confirm accurate results were being provided, implement instrumentation, write policies and procedures and ensure the training and competency of transport staff. The program went live this past summer and now has been integrated into all NICU transports.