The job of air ambulance paramedics is highly demanding, often involving lifting patients safely and carefully. As a result of this physically demanding job, many paramedics may be at risk of on-the-job injuries. And these injuries can render them unable to work more efficiently, which could negatively impact your productivity. So if you’re an air ambulance service provider that wants to enhance operations and productivity, it’s crucial that you try to prevent workplace injuries as best as possible.
Air Ambulance Paramedics and Injuries
Many on-the-job injuries suffered by air ambulance paramedics occur while they’re lifting or moving their patients. Although paramedics receive sufficient training, some situations and conditions may make it more difficult (and even potentially dangerous) to lift and move patients. For example, the patient may be on the heavier side or the paramedic may not have sufficient bodily strength to lift the patient efficiently.
Additionally, the equipment used for lifting and moving patients can play a huge role in the safety of air ambulance paramedics. In the first two cases mentioned, air ambulance service providers have limited capabilities to control what happens. But you can make sure to provide your paramedics with high-end equipment that will make patient lifting and moving easier and safer.
Lifting and Moving Equipment for Air Ambulance Service Providers
If you want to maintain the safety of your paramedics, you might want to consider investing in the following types of equipment for lifting and moving patients:
- Power loading systems that can do all the heavy lifting and eliminate a major cause of air ambulance paramedic injuries
- Powered cots such as those that use a hydraulic system to make lifting and moving patients easier
- Enhanced stair chairs that make it easier for paramedics to guide patients down the stairs without having to lift them.
Being a paramedic is a physically demanding job especially if you work for an air ambulance. You’ll have to regularly lift and move patients every time you respond to a call. And as a result of this, you’re at high risk of getting injured during this lifting and moving process. So as a medical flight paramedic, you need to take some helpful measures that will prevent these injuries and ensure you efficiently carry out your duties without any issues.
Preparing Your Body to Carry Out Your Medical Flight Paramedic Duties
As mentioned earlier, being a medical flight paramedic is a physically demanding job and involved plenty of activity and heavy lifting. At times, you may even have to perform some strenuous physical activity right after a state of rest. And as a result of this quick transition, your body may become strained and more susceptible to injuries.
That’s why you need to get involved in as many warm-up activities as possible before you respond to a call. You can start warming up at the start of your shift so you’re prepared to take on any physically-demanding task that comes your way. 20-30 minutes of warm-up would be perfect to get your body acquainted to the possible strain it needs to endure for the rest of your shift.
And you should also consider warming up after you’ve been inactive for a while. You can perform static stretching and simple cardiovascular exercises for your warm-up sessions. You can also use tennis balls and foam rollers to help stretch your stiff muscles and prepare it for strenuous physical activities.
In addition to this, you should regularly train to lift heavy objects. This will prepare your body to handle the task of lifting and moving patients of all sizes.
In between patients who’ve been in a serious accident and terminally ill patients who need hospital-to-hospital transportation, medical flight paramedics may occasionally encounter patients who complain of feeling weak and generally ill. While it may be difficult to pinpoint what the issue might be in such cases, it’s important to take thorough assessments to ensure the condition isn’t caused by a life-threatening disease.
Possible Causes of General Illness Medical Flight Paramedics should Look Out for
If you respond to a patient who complains of feeling lethargic in general, try to assess them for the following conditions:
- Sepsis – Sepsis is caused by an infection and can lead to a significant dysfunction of the organs. But when you’re a first responder, you might face some issues as sepsis assessment usually requires lab results.
In a pre-hospital setting, you can still make some assessments that will rule out sepsis. There are three elements you need to look out for and if at least two of them are positive you need to consider that the patient is suffering from sepsis.
These elements are: If the respiratory rate is more than or equal to 22/min, if they have altered mentation with GCS less than or equal to 13, and/or if their systolic blood pressure is less than or equal to 100 mm Hg.
- Systemic inflammatory response syndrome – Medical flight paramedics should also make assessments for SIRS, which fairly easier for them to do than with sepsis. In this case you will look at a few criteria, out of which the patient might have SIRS if at least two of them are true.
The criteria are: if the heart rate is more than 90/min, if the respiratory rate is more than 20/min, if the white cell count is more than 12,000/mm³, if their temperature is higher than 38 degrees Celsius or less than 36 degrees Celsius, and/or if their PaCO2 is less than 32 mm Hg.
Accurately measuring the vitals of your patients is crucial when you’re working as a medical flight paramedic, an EMT, a nurse, or any medical professional for the matter. That means you’ll need to properly monitor and record the patient’s blood pressure. While it may be fairly easy for you, it’s important to remember that there are certain factors that could result in wrong BP readings.
Factors that Often Mislead Medical Flight Paramedics
By understand what could impact the BP reading on your equipment, you will be able to take precautions and make more accurate readings. Here are some of the reasons why your BP monitor could give you inaccurate readings:
- Incorrectly-sized cuffs – If the BP cuff on the monitor is too large, you’ll get readings that are much lower than the actual rate. And in case the cuff is too small, the BP readings will be a lot higher than the correct rate. Make sure the bladder length is 80% and width is 40% of the arm circumference.
- Incorrect positioning of patient’s body – How the patient’s body is positioned will also have a huge impact on the accuracy of your reading. Eliminate any influence of gravity to make sure you get a more accurate reading. The arm or leg you’re using for the reading should be placed at mid-heart level.
In addition to this, you need to make sure the patient isn’t talking while you’re taking the reading. And it would be ideal if you could take the reading when the patient is sitting with their legs uncrossed. In case of unconscious patients, taking a reading may be a bit more challenging for medical flight paramedics. But you can still follow the rules of proper positioning and correct cuff sizes to take accurate BP measurement.
When you’re working as part of a medical flight crew, you will encounter many incidents and a wide variety of patients. And sometimes, you might even come across a patient that’s accompanied by a service animal. You may not know exactly how to handle the situation as you’re not too familiar with it. In this post, you’ll find out a few important tips to follow when you encounter patients with service animals.
What to do When Your Medical Flight Patient has a Service Animal
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, only dogs are considered as service animals. And that’s the first information you should be aware of. But in regards to whether or not you should allow a service dog to accompany your patient in flight, you will also have to remember a few things.
First of all, the ADA requires that businesses, nonprofit organizations, and state and local governments that serve the public should allow service animals in their facilities if they’re accompanying people with disabilities.
If you’re not too certain what kind of service the service dog provides, however, you may only carry out limited inquiries. These two questions are the only ones you’re legally allowed to ask:
- Is the dog a service dog that the patient requires because of a disability?
- What kind of tasks or work has the dog been trained to do?
Medical flight and ground ambulance crews alike cannot ask about what disability the patient has or request medical documentation. They can’t request for a demonstration of the dog’s ability either. And you can only deny transport for the service dog because of the following reasons:
- If your ability to provide lifesaving care will be fundamentally altered by the service dog
- If the service dog isn’t housebroken
- If the dog is out of control and the patient cannot take any effective action to control it
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.
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.
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:
The life of paramedic, nurse, doctor, or pilot is hectic especially if you’re working for an air ambulance. You run the risk of fatigue and you may be unable to balance your work and life efficiently. And if you work in shifts, you’re also at risk of developing a disorder known as shift work disorder. This could impair your ability to carry out your medical flight duties efficiently.
Shift Work Disorder Could Pose Threats to Medical Flight Workers
When you’re in the air ambulance industry, your physical and mental health is crucial because you have other people depending on you. So if you suspect that you have developed shift work disorder, it would be wise to seek treatment immediately. Here are some of the common symptoms to help you assess yourself:
- Being sleepy excessively at times when you need to stay awake
- Being unable to fall asleep when you need to or waking up before getting sufficient sleep
- Constantly getting insufficient sleep or being unable to get restful sleep
- Lack of energy
- Lack of concentration
- Irritability and depressive moods
Due to all these issues, you may even face problems maintaining healthy personal relationships – whether it’s with your partner, colleagues, or family members.
Causes of Shift Work Disorder
Shift work disorder, as the name suggests, is common in people who work shifts. And that’s why people who work in a medical flight run a high risk of developing the disorder. Night shifts and rotating shifts as well as early morning shifts can result in shift work disorder.
And due to shift work disorder, you may eventually experience chronic sleep deprivation, which can seriously ruin your health, safety, and productivity. You’ll normally find yourself struggling to stay awake when you need to and restless when you should be asleep.
In a previous post, we talked about some of the specific guidelines you need to follow when treating patients who have fainted. Also known as syncope, fainting is a common occurrence and as a medical flight paramedic, you may encounter a few patients in this situation. In this post, you’ll get more details about the guidelines released by the American College of Cardiology so you can get a thorough understanding of what to do.
More tips on handling medical flight patients with syncope
The previous post talked about the initial steps you need to take when you encounter a patient who has fainted. And those steps can be used by medical flight paramedics. According to the American College of Cardiology, health care professionals can follow the guidelines below when they have to treat a patient who faints:
- Some patients may have fainted because of irregular heartbeats, which can even be life-threatening. To determine whether your patient is facing this issue, doctors can use an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator to regulate the heartbeats.
- For syncope patients who have heart conditions, beta-blockers can be a good option.
- Health care providers should advise fainting patients to restrict their exercise in the future.
- Patients with recurring fainting spells resulting from very low heart rate might require pacemakers. In case of patients with common faints, drugs may be enough to control the situation.
- In case of unexplained fainting, heart rhythm monitoring is a good option to determine whether or not the patient has intermittent heart rhythm issues resulting in fainting.
The American College of Cardiology also advises athletes with fainting issues to visit an experienced health care provider for a heart assessment. These are some of the basic guidelines that can help in providing the right level of care for people who faint.