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Scand J Trauma Resusc Emerg Med. 2019 Mar 4;27(1):27. doi: 10.1186/s13049-019-0604-8.

Interhospital transport of critically ill patients: experiences and challenges, a qualitative study.

Author information

Division of Emergencies and Critical Care, Oslo University Hospital, Oslo, Norway.
The Norwegian Air Ambulance Foundation, Drøbak, Norway.
Division of Emergencies and Critical Care, Oslo University Hospital, Oslo, Norway.
Medical Faculty, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway.



No consensus based national standard for interhospital transports of critically ill patients exists in Norway. The local hospitals are responsible for funding, organizing and performing these transports, resulting in potentially different level of care for the critically ill patients depending on local hospital resources and not the level of severity in the patient's condition. The aim of this study was to examine how these transports are executed and to discover challenges during transports and potentials of improvement.


A qualitative study with 20 semi-structured interviews of doctors, nurses and ambulance personnel representing a wide range in experience and formal education, reflecting the different compositions of crews performing interhospital transports was conducted. A systematic text condensation of the interviews was performed to describe personal experiences and values.


Few interviewees reported special adverse events when asked. Instead they chose to describe more general characteristics of the working environment, their own positive emotions or fears and the strengths and weaknesses of the organizational system. The prehospital working environment was described as different from the in-hospital environment. The personnel experienced being on their own during transports, lack of procedures and checklists and often no systematic education or demanded preparedness for participating. The resident doctors described pressure from elderly colleagues to participate in the transports. At the same time, all interviewees reported a self-interest in participating in these transports.


Safe interhospital transports of the critically ill patients are challenged by the characteristics of the out of hospital environment. The transports are described as potentially unsafe for both patients and personnel. Systematic education is warranted, highlighting the use of checklists and special educational programs in prehospital critical care medicine. The strong personal interest to participate in these transports may serve as a barrier against changing todays system. To ensure the right level of competence and safety for each unique patient, it is imperative to standardize the interhospital transports on a national level, built on consensus from experienced prehospital personnel.


The trial is approved and registered by the local representative for the Norwegian Data Protection Authority as trial 13-7751.


Ambulance transport; Critically ill; Intensive care; Inter hospital; Patient safety; Patient transfer; Standard care

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