The first recorded use of ambulances for emergency purposes dates back to Spain in 1487. Queen Isabella of Spain enlisted ambulances to help those injured in the Spanish army. Napoleon Bonaparte‘s chief physician Dominique Jean Larrey also developed an ambulance system in the 1700s using horse-drawn carriages to take away wounded soldiers after they had already been pre-treated on the battlefield. By the 1830s, the use of ambulances for civilians began as a way to transport cholera patients in London. Further advancements were made during the American Civil War building upon Larrey’s previous pre-treatment system, and used new transportation methods. Each regiment had their own ambulance cart, and the use of steamboats as mobile hospitals, and transportation of the wounded by train was also a method used.
The introduction of the first hospital issued ambulance services came on March 28, 1866 at Commercial Hospital (now known as the Cincinnati General) in Cincinnati, Ohio. James A. Jackson was listed as “driver of ambulance” on the hospital’s employee records and earned a salary of $360 a year. The same sort of services soon began at other hospitals; a notable front runner was Bellevue Hospital in New York. Surgeon Edward Dalton was focused mostly on comfort and speed when creating the hospital’s system. The ambulances carried splints, a stomach pump, morphine, brandy, and various other pieces of medical equipment that were thought useful at the time. Horses were often already strapped into or near their harnesses so that they could ready when emergency calls were made.
At the beginning of the 20th century, after the invention of automobiles, motor units began to be introduced alongside the horse-drawn ambulance carriages. The effectiveness of the motorized ambulance phased out the use of horse carriages during World War I. In the following years and decades, more advancements were made, including the use of radios, physicians staffed to work specifically in ambulances, and air ambulances came into use. The ambulance became a life-saving vehicle, not just one that transported hurt individuals to a hospital to be treated – treatment started as soon as individuals were put into the ambulance.
Ambulances today are state-of-the-art, and work on improving them even more is done on a daily basis. Specialty equipment is made specifically for ambulances. Experts have worked to take safety precautions in the design of ambulances to protect the lives of both patients and EMS workers. In recent years, even developments like controlling the quality of air in ambulances to reduce the risk of spreading communicable diseases have been made.