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PICU Nursing: Honing Your ECMO Skills


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Editor’s Note:

So I was @ Women’s & Children’s Hospital – here in West Texas, doing some platelet gel cases, when I decided to drop by the PICU to visit friends I hadn’t seen in awhile.

The PICU staff was pretty thin- so I asked where everybody was- and found out they were conducting an ECMO wet lab today- and I decided to drop in…

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Hello Wet LAB !!!


This PICU nursing team is highly skilled, and we have shared many many bad situations together (with good outcomes), and some truly inspiring patient recoveries.

The above picture is in black & white for a reason:  ECMO trouble shooting and situations are NEVER just black and white decisions.



Topping the list is Marty (the ECMO coordinator) from whose clinical expertise  I have learned an amazing amount regarding ECMO management.

She is seen here- demonstrating how to use a hand crank in the event of a massive pump/rollerhead failure 🙁



Mona– a super-educator who has shared some serious time with me in the trenches.



Midge–  An ECMO coordinator who watches her (subordinates/students/newbies) like a hawk- and is forever headstrong and unafraid 🙂


Picture taken on the day of her 1st SOLO ECMO wean…

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Trouble -Shooting 101


Meet our ECMO pt BARTY 🙂



Here is Patti, a very talented RN, starting to assess an ECMO situation.  The clinical picture (yes this is a metaphor) is not always crystal clear or in focus.



Having successfully navigated her way through a “reversed boot” situation- where the blood flow pathway was going the wrong way- Patti now successfully identifies an O2 disconnect as the primary root problem for her de-saturating ECMO pt.

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 Click image to read a true ECMO story

I had to leave- because my teaching instincts were starting to kick in- but I have to say, over the past few years- this group of highly talented and dedicated ECMO nurses/technicians- are among the finest I have ever met.

To read a real life story of ECMO with this crew- click the picture above- it’s pretty amazing 🙂

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