As an air ambulance provider, it is your responsibility to ensure the safety of your staff. This is particularly important for your medical flight paramedics, because there is a high possibility of them getting injured. We’ve even highlighted some of the causes of injury in two of our previous posts. So in this post, we’re going to discuss some of the ways in which you can improve workplace safety and prevent injury among your staff.
Enhancing Equipment Safety
The first thing you need to look at is your equipment. If you went through the previous posts, you would have seen that medical flight paramedics are commonly injured while lifting patients. So the best thing to do to prevent such injuries is to replace your traditional manual cots with powered patient transport equipment.
These will significantly reduce the physical strain on your paramedics. In turn, this will reduce the likelihood of experiencing injury. You could install assisted loading systems that will support the cot and make it easier for paramedics to load and unload patients onto the aircraft.
You should also equip your aircrafts with safety equipment that your paramedics can easily access when needed. This would include safety masks, gloves, and gowns to protect them from exposure to harmful substances.
Enhancing Medical Flight Safety
In addition to enhancing the safety of your equipment, you should also consider the safety of your aircraft. Whether you’re operating fixed-wing aircrafts or helicopters, you should do a thorough maintenance that will ensure optimum safety for your crew.
Have proper storage systems installed for your equipment, so that paramedics can easily access them when needed while at the same time preventing the equipment from exposure. And make sure you have a routine check of your engines and inbuilt flight equipment.
If you’re working as an air ambulance paramedic, you have to carry out physically straining tasks occasionally. Combined this with a more pedantic lifestyle when you’re off-duty or not on call, you could end up with different types of muscle pains and physical strain. One of the most common types of pains that medical flight paramedics can encounter is knee pain.
Find Out What Causes the Knee Pain
The first thing you need to do when you’re suffering from knee pain is to identify what is the root cause. If it wasn’t caused by physical trauma to the knee area, there’s a good chance you can prevent the issue from reoccurring. It’s easy to get pain in the knee due to a slight mistake in movement while stepping or climbing or even squatting.
In some cases, even if the pain is occurring in your knee the main cause of the problem may be at a completely different part of the body. So it’s important to get to the root of the issue if medical flight paramedics want to gain long-term relief from knee pain.
Knee Pain Solutions for Medical Flight Paramedics
Try stretching your legs by putting them on the table with your knee facing downwards. Your knee should be in line with your hip joint. If you can do this, it means everything is okay with the functionality of your glutes. The stretch might even help in relieving the pain on your knees to some extent.
You should invest in a good foam roller that you can use for 10 minutes every day. Use it on every part of your joints and muscles that are prone to pain such as your inner thigh, calves, hamstrings, and glutes. This not only decreases the pain but also loosens up the muscles to prevent further strain.
Last week, we discussed three common patient statements that should have you concerned. But those are not the only statements that you should be concerned about while you’re serving as a medical flight paramedic. There may be several other statements that sound simple enough but should be taken very seriously so that they don’t result in bigger problems.
When Medical Flight Paramedics Should be Concerned
Here are some more patient statements that you should be wary of and take seriously instead of just dismissing them:
- When a patient doesn’t want to go to a specific hospital – Every now and then you might come across a patient who does not want to be taken to a certain hospital and tells you so. There may be a good reason for this based on their past experiences. In some cases, it may be because they are dissatisfied with the level of care provided.
But in other cases, it may also be because the hospital has records or knowledge of the patient’s medical history, which the patient has been hiding from you. So make sure you ask the reason why they don’t want to go to a specific hospital.
- When a patient is dismissing their problem for a minor one – It’s important to pay close attention when a patient tries to dismiss the pain or problem they’re experiencing as a result of a minor issue. For example, the patient may explain that the discomfort in their chest is probably because of indigestion.
There’s a chance that the patient is in denial and is ignoring the signs of a major health issue. In this instance, it could be a sign of an oncoming heart attack. The patient may be looking to reassure themselves that it’s nothing serious. So it’s important for medical flight paramedics to assess patients more carefully when they’re dismissing their problem for a minor one.
When you’re working as a medical flight paramedic, you might have come across certain statements that make you pay extra attention to the patient. This is likely because you’ve encountered a patient whose condition immediately deteriorated after saying something similar. It may also be because your colleagues have had an experience with such patients.
These experiences may be able to teach you valuable lessons. Even the most subtle phrases and statements could be followed by horrible outcomes.
Statements of Concern for Medical Flight Paramedics
Take a look at some of these patient statements that should get you concerned:
- When a patient has “the worst headache of their life” – When someone is used to getting headaches, they’ll be familiar with the severity and duration of their typical headaches. So when a patient is claiming that their headache is far worse than usual, it’s a cause for concern for paramedics.
Otherwise, it could also be a statement by someone who normally doesn’t have a headache. Even if that’s the case, it could be that they’re experiencing something new and would be a cause for concern for medical flight
- When a patient “feels like they’re going to die” – While there may be instances where someone is being a bit dramatic when they say something like this, it’s always best not to take such statements for granted. Often injured or seriously ill people have some sense that they are going to decompensate, so it’s crucial that you pay attention and take immediate action.
- When a patient’s shoulder is hurting – Pain in the shoulder may be popularly used to describe chest pain and abdominal issues. The pain can be caused by heart conditions or respiratory ailments such as pneumonia and pleurisy. It could also be caused by illness or injury in the liver, gallbladder, spleen, etc.
When you’re working as a paramedic, accurate patient assessment is crucial so you can get them the care they need. But this can prove to be a challenge if the patient is deaf or hard of hearing. They may have a hard time understanding what you’re trying to say and may give you inaccurate responses. Find out what you need to do to better assess hard-of-hearing patients as a medical flight paramedic.
Understand the Variations and Changes in Communication Ability
When you’re trying to communicate with hard-of-hearing patients, it’s important to clearly understand that there can be variations in the severity of their hearing condition. There are some people who are unable to hear at all but may be able to speak clearly. At the same time, there are also people who can hear a bit but have difficulty in communicating.
It’s important to understand these variations to adjust your approach accordingly. It’s also crucial to understand how an illness or injury can impact the abilities of hard-of-hearing patients. Even if they’re excellent at lip-reading, the illness or injury may make it more difficult for them to read lips.
What Medical Flight Paramedics can do to Accommodate Hard-Of-Hearing Patients
As a medical flight paramedic, it’s crucial that you adjust the way you speak to patients who are hard of hearing. First of all, it’s important to speak clearly so the patient can understand you. Although you may feel compelled to speak louder or slower, this might not really help at times. You can try slowing down your speed or increasing your volume but with moderation.
Gestures can also help in communicating more effectively with hard-of-hearing patients. This can also work effectively in your communication with patients who have cognitive disabilities or do not speak English. And make the most of facial expressions to convey what you’re saying. For example, you could try raising your eyebrows to indicate a question.
Training to become an air ambulance paramedic won’t be all that easy. There are tons of challenges you have to overcome and new skills to pick up. And it’s especially more challenging if you have a job to hold down while you’re training to become a medical flight paramedic. Luckily for you, this post will provide you with the basics and best practices that can improve your chances of successfully completing your training.
Smart and Balanced Studying is Crucial
First of all, it’s crucial that you study smartly and in a balanced manner. Your brain needs to be fed consistently with the new information that you wish to retain instead of forcing yourself to remember the information. So instead of cramming right before your exam, it’s best if you consistently study a little bit every week.
It’s important that you thoroughly learn the contents of your medical flight paramedic training textbook. But instead of stressing yourself to remember everything, try to read the textbook with an intention to understand the information. You can also use learning techniques that are considered to be effective such as quizzes, flash cards, etc.
Additionally, you can also prepare yourself to analyze multiple-choice questions and answer them correctly. You may not always be able to recall the answer to every single question. So look through several mock tests to better understand a strategy to identify the correct answer.
Medical Flight Paramedics and the Need for Interpersonal Skills
Your knowledge in paramedics may be crucial to get through your written exams. But if you wish to succeed in the field, you will also need to enhance your interpersonal skills. This is crucial if you wish to avoid miscommunication between you and your patients. And you’ll also need it to make your patients feel more comfortable in your care.
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.
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.