Medical Flight Crew Guide: How to Identify Stroke and Provide Essential Care

Stroke is one of the top causes of death and long-term disability in the United States. Leaving a stroke untreated for one minute would result in about 1.9 million neurons being destroyed. If it’s untreated for an hour, the brain loses neurons equal to neuron loss occurring from 3.6 years of regular aging. This makes it crucial for a medical flight crew to conduct thorough assessment and provide necessary care for stroke patients or suspected stroke patients.

Detecting Symptoms of Stroke

If stroke is suspected, it is crucial to rush the patient to a facility that can rapidly assess and diagnose the condition in addition to providing treatment. However, many patients deny the symptoms. As a medical flight crew responding to a call in such cases, it’s important that you try to determine if the patient experienced or is experiencing some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Sudden confusion
  • Sudden vision trouble (one eye or both eyes)
  • Sudden severe headache
  • Sudden trouble with walking
  • Sudden numbness or weakness around the face, arm, or leg
  • Dizziness/loss of coordination
  • Speech issues/trouble understanding

Providing Necessary Care to Stroke Patients as a Medical Flight Crew

Managing patients showcasing stroke symptoms requires team effort. With it being a time-dependent patient, you will need to have a protocol in place for providing organized and quick pre-hospital care to such patients. Although you may have a limited ability in terms of resources to provide care for a stroke patient, it would make a huge difference for you to alert a Stroke Team or make plans for rapid transportation to a stroke center.

During the transportation, try to carry out general neurological assessments as possible. Providing oxygen and, monitoring cardiac function, and drawing blood for labs, etc. should be quickly accomplished to streamline and expedite the care process.

Do You Have what It Takes to Become a Critical Care Flight Nurse for Air Ambulances?

With the responsibility of providing specialized emergency care to patients, air ambulances need to be staffed with the most competent and professional medical personnel. A typical air ambulance crew comprises of an air ambulance pilot, an in-flight doctor, an in-flight nurse, and a paramedic. The number of people assigned for each task may differ according to the air ambulance company and its needs.

Among the most crucial positions in an air ambulance crew is that of a critical care flight nurse, but not everyone is capable of becoming one. So read on to find out more about becoming a critical care flight nurse and see if you have what it takes to become one.

Basic Requirements to become a Critical Care Flight Nurse for Air Ambulances

Although different organizations and charities have varying requirements and standards for recruiting a critical care flight nurse, most air ambulances have the same basic requirements. You will need to check about the specific requirement set by the company you’re planning to apply at. However, take a look at the basic necessities first and see if you can proceed with your application:

  • Licensed nurse with authorization to practice in that state you’re based in
  • Experience in critical care or emergency medicine ER (minimum years of experience may differ according to organizations)
  • High level of competency and proficiency with patient assessments
  • High level of proficiency, expertise, and knowledge in transporting and caring for critically ill patients
  • Ability to perform physical activities involved in performing aeromedical transport
  • Good problem-solving skills with the ability to combine judgment and experience in coming up with a solution

Possession of current certifications for Advanced Cardiac Life Support Provider and International Basic Trauma Life Support Provider. Some companies may also require that you possess a certification for Advanced Pediatric Life Support Provider

How to Become Certified as a Respiratory Therapist for Air Ambulances

When you’re in the medical field, there are a number of areas in which you may opt to specialize. If you’ve decided to become a respiratory therapist, there are a number of places in which you can work including in an air ambulance. You’ve met the necessary educational qualifications to pursue your licensure, but you’re not sure where to go from there. Just read on to find out more about how to obtain a license and operate as a respiratory therapist for air ambulances.

Meeting the Certification Requirements

The standard requirement for anyone to become a certified respiratory therapist is by obtaining a national license through the NBRC or National Board for Respiratory Care, Inc. It is the basis by which all other state boards will assess your qualification for a state licensure. So you will need to get through the Certified Respiratory Therapist or CRT examination.

Some respiratory therapists even pursue an advanced-level credential known as Registered Respiratory Therapist or RRT. While this may not be a prerequisite for licensure, it can boost your chances of being accepted as a certified respiratory therapist and provide your services at air ambulances. In fact, states like California and Ohio made it a mandate for respiratory therapists to obtain this license before gaining eligibility for a state license.

Meeting State Licensing Requirements and Working for Air Ambulances

Except for Alaska, every state within the U.S. requires that respiratory therapists also obtain state licensure. Although the process of gaining licensure may differ from state to state, the requirements are pretty much similar in all the states. This may include background checks, educational transcripts, and NBRC verifications in addition to application for licensure and application fees. It would do you well to study the requirements and procedures prescribed by the state licensing board in the state of your choice.

What You Need to Know about Medicare and Air Ambulance Transport

If you have Medicare coverage, you can get coverage for ambulance transportation to or from the hospital. The coverage also includes skilled nursing facility (SNF) or critical access hospital (CAH). It’s important to remember that Medicare will help you pay for ambulance services but only if other modes of transportation could be harmful for your health. This doesn’t necessarily mean you automatically quality for air ambulance transport either. First, let’s take a look at the medical necessity of availing ambulance transport.

Medical Requirement for Availing Ambulance Transport Under Medicare

Medicare will pay for the cost of emergency ambulance transportation in case of sudden medical emergencies with your health being in serious danger, provided that other modes of transportation like cars and taxi could endanger your health. You can get coverage for ambulance transportation if:

  • You’re unconscious
  • You’re bleeding heavily
  • You’re in shock
  • You require skilled medical treatment throughout the transportation

Requirements to Qualify for Air Ambulance Transport Under Medicare

The above-mentioned examples don’t necessarily qualify you fir air ambulance transport that is covered by Medicare. To be eligible for medical transport by air, your condition must require immediate and fast transportation that cannot be done through ground transportation. Medicare will cover for your expenses only if your condition fulfills the following requirements:

  • Ground transportation can’t easily reach your location
  • Obstacles like heavy traffic, long distances, etc. could prevent you from getting the immediate care that you require if you’re traveling by ground ambulance

There may even be a few but special instances wherein Medicare will cover for the cost of ambulance transport even in non-emergency cases. This is provided in case you have a doctor’s letter stating that your medical condition requires transportation with an ambulance.