UW Health Med Flight’s experienced medical teams are ready for any emergency 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Each day, we transport and care for critically ill and injured patients of all ages throughout the region.
Med Flight is unique in the U.S. Since its establishment in 1985, we have utilized a physician-nurse-pilot staffing model. While quite common in other parts of the world, this physician based staffing model is highly unusual in North America.
Our team has served the area for more than 35 years. We log more than 2,300 transports per year. Our team includes highly trained doctors, nurses and respiratory therapists who specialize in emergency medicine. We are the only program in the country to fly with an attending physician routinely on board.
We transport patients supported by ECMO, intra-aortic balloon pumps, ventricular assist devices, inhaled nitric, active cooling or an isolette. For patients with traumatic injuries, we carry more blood products than most transport programs in the world (8 units) and an advanced procedures kit.
Our helicopters have enhanced flight and safety features. Each carries advanced medical equipment and emergency medications. We focus on helping you get the best possible medical care quickly and safely, and on stabilizing patients while being transported to get the care they need at a hospital or facility that best meets the patient’s needs.
Our critical care ambulances transport patients of any age. We can bring specialized care teams, and essentially the resources of a mobile ICU to patients and safely transport them to a hospital or higher or level of care that best suits the patient’s needs. This includes newborns who need care in a NICU until they are strong enough for lifesaving surgery or a procedure. We take great pride in partnering with many hospitals in the region.
Serving Wisconsin and surrounding states
Our EC145 helicopters and two critical care ambulances are used for patient transport. They operate from bases in Madison, Mineral Point and Portage. We serve people throughout Wisconsin, as well as parts of Iowa, Illinois, Michigan and Minnesota.
We partner with leading FAA-certified and industry-accredited Metro Aviation, Inc. to maintain, operate and pilot Med Flight aircraft. Our helicopters can land on roads, fields and other areas deemed safe so that we can quickly help trauma victims at the scene. Our team also transports patients who need more specialized care from one hospital to another and assists with interfacility transplant services. In both emergency and planned transports, we bring the advanced equipment and resources of a highly skilled team directly to the patient.
Safety is and has always been a priority for us. We are one of the few programs in the country to fly with twin-engine aircraft (Airbus EC-145 helicopters), helicopter terrain avoidance warnings systems (HTAWS), night vision goggles, as well as full-time Instrument Flight Rule (IFR) capability. Our pilots are highly trained and experienced to fly IFR, and collectively, they have several thousands of hours of flight experience, far above the average program in the United States HEMS industry.
In winter 2023-24, Med Flight will expand its coverage area with new base in Janesville, Wis. Read more »
A top-flight team takes emergency care to new heights
Our Med Flight team includes a collaborative group of physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists and specialist providers with critical care training, as well as experienced pilots and dispatchers. Whether transporting by air or ground, they join forces to provide only the highest level of critical emergency care. Many UW faculty emergency physicians routinely fly on Med Flight both for professional satisfaction and to keep their critical care and procedural skills honed, and our flight nurses have extensive critical care training and experience and are a tremendous resource to our physicians.
As leaders within helicopter EMS, our physicians are active in national and international societies and organizations, including a former president of the Air Medical Physicians Association (AMPA) and former physician consultant to the United States Department of Transportation Advisory Committee on Aeromedical Transport Billing. Our faculty have also served as instructors in the U.K.’s renowned Anaesthesia Trauma & Critical Care (ATACC) course, the most advanced trauma course available worldwide, and are engaged in research advancing the science of prehospital medicine, and have flown with the the world-leading London Air Ambulance service.
Med Flight crew members also partner with the UW Athletics Sports Medicine team to undergo rigorous physical training at UW Health’s Tactical Athlete Specialty Clinic to ensure they are duty ready as first responders.
Med Flight Leadership
Physician education & training
While many HEMS programs that fly with physicians do so with residents, we have the capability to staff each flight with an attending-level EM physician. Most of our Med Flight attending physicians are extremely experienced in the field, and provide our residents with the best introduction to prehospital care and critical care transport found anywhere.
The decision to fly is voluntary and has no effect on matching at UW or what residency experience may be like once here. It is, however, an incredible educational opportunity that sets our residency program apart.
Residents begin their preparations to serve as flight physicians during their PGY-1 year when they ride along as observers on 10-20 flights with faculty flight physicians. As their training progresses, residents can fly as a solo flight physician (as a crew of three with a pilot and nurse) during their ED rotations, and receive online medical support and control as needed from either the Medical Director available by phone, or the faculty emergency physician by phone or radio.
All resident flight physicians must complete mandatory prerequisite training: ICU, Trauma, Anesthesia, OB, ATLS, ACLS, PALS as well as flight crew specific training mandated by the FAA and the CAMTS accrediting agency. Ride along flights can be completed during the intern anesthesia/ultrasound month, as well as during other rotations during the PGY-1 and PGY-2 year. In the course of this training, the resident must also complete crew safety and procedural orientation sessions set by the FAA and conducted by our chief pilot before being deemed ready to fly solo by the Med Flight Medical Director.
The flight physician experience provides extensive opportunities for UW EM residents to direct and provide care to critically ill and injured patients in a spectrum of environments. Our flight physicians routinely perform many invasive procedures. Opportunities to coordinate care with referring community hospital physicians and EMS ground units further augment the educational value of this important component of our training program.
The Department of Emergency Medicine offers a fellowship for interested BC/BE emergency medicine graduates in Critical Care Transport and Helicopter EMS (HEMS) with the UW Health Med Flight program. The fellowship provides the experience necessary to prepare future HEMS medical directors for this complex role.
The one-year fellowship is primarily aimed at individuals interested in building their academic and administrative expertise by focusing on the behind-the-scenes work that goes into the medical direction of a HEMS program. The rapid expansion of helicopter programs in the U.S. over the last decade necessitates a strong need for experienced medical direction. Medical directors oversee these programs to ensure that staff is properly trained and appropriate medical utilization of HEMS programs is being followed.
A primary component of this fellowship is flight experience. In order to be effective, HEMS program medical directors must understand the capabilities and limitations of the environment in which flight crews work. This is true for both the aviation and medical aspects of the program. Many residents may find themselves matched to EM programs that offer either no flight experience or very limited ride-along experiences that do not provide adequate background to be effective. This fellowship provides significant flight experience by placing the fellow as the sole flight physician responsible for patient care in our nurse-pilot-physician flight team.
While critical, flight experience is just one facet of the fellowship. Clinical experience is supplemented with adequate grounding in the administrative, academic and research components of both flight and emergency medicine programs at a major academic medical center. The Med Flight fellowship includes training in all of these areas.
Our fellows also participate in Medical Director courses at AMTC’s annual conference and take part in the collaborative and translational research available at the nationally regarded University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. The fellowship is also sufficiently flexible to allow for exploration of individual interests, and graduate-level education (MPH or MS) through UW-Madison is also an option based upon individual interest.
Referring providers requesting emergency transport
Providers seeking emergency ground or air transport for their patients should contact our Access Center. Access Center staff can make immediate connections with Med Flight for rapid transport. They can also connect you with a specialist for consultation.
To request transport for an adult or child, call 1-800-472-0111.
For a newborn, call 1-866-678-7636.