The Rise of the Modern Ambulance

Ambulances have changed a lot during my years in EMS. What is curious is how they started out small, then got bigger and bigger and now are getting smaller and more efficient.

In the 1970s, I worked on a Superior Cadillac. It rode like a dream and handled like a sports car. You could hear every diagnostic sound and obtain a perfect EKG at 65 MPH. Most important, patients were very comfortable. But they were really cramped in the back, and we had little room for equipment.

Then along came the modular ambulance. It had a box big enough to stand up in mounted on a truck chassis.

I remember my immense pride when we got our first one. I thought, “Now people will stop calling us ‘ambulance drivers’ and start calling us ‘paramedics.'” It looked like an emergency room on wheels

The only problem with the early modular ambulances is that they were terribly heavy and rode like farm equipment. Orthopedic patients screamed at every bump in the road.

They did offer immense storage space, but the problem with all those compartments was our tendency to fill them up. Then they were at the upper end of their maximum payload and rode even worse.

The rise of the modern ambulance


About Dan White

I'm a retired Paramedic and EMS Instructor with 35 years EMS and emergency medical product experience. I love canoes, cars and EMS. I have written a lot about EMS Technology on the Paramedic Blog, the Insights on Innovation column for, on and I can be reached directly at 573-240-0002.
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