For over 30 years, Nightingale has provided service to Hampton Road, the Eastern Shore and Northeastern North Carolina. Throughout its history, Nightingale’s mission has remained the same: to provide advanced medical care and safe, rapid transportation to appropriate health care facilities for the critically ill and injured.
In 1981, Edward M. Holmes III, the Administrator of Sentara Leigh Memorial Hospital, an entity of Medical Center Hospitals Corporation, was wholly responsible for the conception and effort to develop an air ambulance service located at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital. Supported by pioneers such as Glenn Mitchell, the late CEO of Sentara, and physicians such as Ron Brown and Frank Yeiser, the dream of Nightingale began. On Oct. 6, 1981, this service, which Ed trademarked as Nightingale, both “to honor the Nurse” and to engender the idea of the “friendly bird that flies at night," was approved. The total capital expenditure, at the time, was forecasted to be $47,000.
In February of the following year, Nightingale began service as the 38th hospital-based air medical helicopter program in the U.S. in a Bell 206L-1 Long Ranger II (pictured left). With a crew complement of a Pilot, Registered Nurse, and Paramedic, a proven combination throughout its 25 year history, Nightingale began serving the community.
Nightingale completed its first mission on Feb. 25, 1982, flying a patient with an intracranial bleed from Virginia Beach General Hospital to the Naval Medical Center in Portsmouth. In its first year, the service flew 286 patient missions and by the end of five years had safely flown 2,267 patients and changed its aircraft from a Bell 206 to a Eurocopter BO105.
The Eurocopter B0105 was the first twin engine helicopter used by Nightingale. It brought not only an added measure of safety, but also the ability to lift a greater load.
As of 1992, Nightingale had flown more than 5,300 patient missions, with 73 percent occurring between hospitals and 26 percent from incident scenes. In July 1996, Nightingale acquired a new aircraft, the Eurocopter BK117, tail number N117NG.
Celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2002, Nightingale had logged more than 11,800 accident-free patient missions. In the summer of 2004, the aircraft underwent a refurbishment, receiving upgraded technology as well as a new look. In 2005, Nightingale began to transport patients on intra-aortic balloon pumps, and the program’s volume continued to increase.
In over 30 years, more than 18,000 patients have been transported by Nightingale without incident. Approximately 38 percent of flights originated from the Tidewater region, 38 percent from Northeastern North Carolina, 16 percent from the Peninsula region, and 9 percent from the Eastern Shore of Virginia. Scene flights comprised approximately 45 percent of our missions; inter-hospital flights comprised the remaining 55 percent, including a number of requests for mutual aid from first responders.
In 2011, the Saving Minutes Saving Lives Campaign raised more than $3.5 million to replace the former aircraft with a new Eurocopter EC-145. In addition to being larger and capable of traveling farther, some of the new aircrafts features include weather radar, Night vision capability, Autopilot, and Satellite tracking.
Nightingale’s success must be attributed to the dedicated efforts of literally thousands of people over the years who have supported and utilized this air-medical service. We wish to thank all those who have contributed to our operations and we look forward to continuing our mission to serve the community.