Recognizing Opioid Overdose for Medical Flight Paramedics

When you’re working as a paramedic for an air ambulance, you will get a wide variety of medical flight cases. While a majority of the cases may be related to critical accidents, you may even encounter patients who have overdosed on opioids every once in a while. Since these are time-sensitive cases, it’s crucial that you immediately start looking for signs and begin your treatment.

Common Signs of Opioid Overdose

Some of the most common signs that a patient has overdosed on opioids are:

  • The patient will have a hard time waking up; they will be extremely sleepy
  • The patient might take shallow breaths
  • The patient’s lips and fingernails may become bluish
  • The patient’s pupils may become extremely small
  • The patient’s heart rate may be slow
  • The patient’s blood pressure will be low

Since opioids can cause patients to stop breathing, it’s crucial that medical flight paramedics or other first responders also check for the “death rattle” sound. This is normally recognized by an exhaled breath and has a very distinct and labored sound in the throat.

Essential Actions for Medical Flight Paramedics

If you happen to be the first responders to the scene and you’ve determined that the patient is overdosing on opioids, you need to first make the patients gets enough oxygen. In some cases such as when the patient cannot breathe, you will need to perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. But if they’re breathing make sure you position them in a way that the airway doesn’t get blocked.

And to reverse the effects of opioid overdose, you will need to administer a naloxone injection intravenously. The effects will last for anywhere between 20 and 90 minutes, giving patient some ability to breathe until you can transport them to a hospital for further care.

Accurate Patient Assessment – Medical Flight Paramedics

You underwent extensive training to become an EMS provider. And now you’re working in an air ambulance as part of the medical flight crew. You already know that patient assessment is one of the first and most critical steps you should take before you even begin your treatment. But there’s still a chance you could make mistakes. In this post, you’ll learn some useful tips to help you make more accurate assessments.

Useful Patient Assessment Tips for Medical Flight Paramedics

Here are some simple and critical steps you should take when assessing your patients:

  • Make sure the thermometer has the right temperature – Most of the equipment you use in the air ambulance may function perfectly well under any kind of temperature. But in the case of your thermometer, it’s crucial that you check to make sure it has the right temperature. If the thermometer is too cold, you may be unable to read the patient’s temperature accurately.

    Ideally, you should be using your thermometer at a temperature between 60-degree and 104-degree F. But there may be times when the temperature inside your medical flight helicopter is much lower than those ideal temperatures. Try to keep the thermometer and other crucial equipment at storage temperature range before using them for patient assessment.

  • Avoid using pain scale to compare patients’ pain – The pain scale can be quite subjective. So make sure you avoid using it to compare the pain your patients are suffering. Instead, the pain scale should be use as a basis to determine any changes in the patient’s pain after a certain treatment or movement.

These are two crucial points to consider when assessing your medical flight patients. There may be several other things to consider in addition to these, depending on your role and the equipment you use.

Preventing Fatigue for Air Ambulance Transport Staff

When you’re part of an air ambulance transport crew, experiencing fatigue is next to impossible. In a previous post, we discussed some of the basic methods of reducing the impact of fatigue. While those steps are important, you can also further improve your health if you can prevent fatigue altogether. Although it’s not completely avoidable, there are still several steps you can take to prevent fatigue to a significant extent.

Ideas to Prevent Fatigue for Air Ambulance Transport Crew Members

So how exactly can you prevent fatigue? Although fatigue isn’t preventable at all times, you can still perform some basic steps and prevent it to a significant extent. Here are some ideas to help you out:

  • Better financial planning – While a hectic work life is one of the main reasons air ambulance workers to experience stress and fatigue. At the same time, other reasons like financial pressures can also contribute to fatigue.

    If you find yourself struggling to fall asleep because you’re worried about your finances, it’s time to see how you can budget better. See where you can make sacrifices and how you can cut down on unnecessary spending.

  • Better sleep – People often assume that working in air ambulance transport automatically leaves you sleep deprived. Although the job is demanding and you may have to work shifts, you can still maintain proper sleep cycles to ensure that your body gets enough rest and doesn’t become fatigued. You can check out the post about overcoming sleep problems for some help.
  • Healthier lifestyle – Exercising and maintaining a healthy diet is crucial if you want to prevent fatigue from afflicting your body. Doing this will ensure your body’s healthier and less susceptible to fatigue and other health problems. Sufficient exercising and proper diet will strengthen your body and toughen it for all the long hours you’ll be working.

Mental Tactics for Rookie Medical Flight Paramedics to Build Confidence

Being in the medical flight industry is stressful. And it’s particularly stressful when you’re just starting out as a paramedic in the field. Sure you’ve gone through thorough training and certification but when it comes to dealing with real-life patients, you get cold feet. It’s not because you don’t know what to do but more because you’re afraid of doing something wrong.

Being anxious about treating your patients is only natural. But it gets troubling when your anxiety prevents you from fulfilling your duties. So you’ll need to develop more confidence to provide correct and effective pre-hospital care.

How to Build Confidence as a Medical Flight Paramedic

So how exactly will you build confidence to do your job more effectively? Here are a few tips to help you out:

  • Don’t forget the basics – Every medical scenario has a basic set of rules paramedics need to follow when assessing their patients and administering care. In your nervousness you may be prepared for the worst and your mind may be muddled with complicated steps and ideas. But instead of this, you need to focus on remembering the ABCs – the basic steps you should carry out for each scenario.
  • Don’t focus on yourself – Of course your first few calls as a medical flight paramedic may make you reconsider your skills and competence. And an inner reflection of this may overwhelm you and only increase your nervousness about carrying out the task at hand. But you need to remember that this isn’t about you but about the patient.

    Your focus should be only on the patient and what you can do to help them in each instance. What’s going on with them? What’s the possible reason for this issue? And what can you do to relieve some of the symptoms they’re displaying right now. Once you think of this, your mind will focus on taking action instead of just reflecting on your own abilities.