Flight Operations: Patient And Crew Safety

Flight Operations And The Effect On Patients And Crews

The flight environment can be challenging for both patients and crews. As an air medical provider, we have a responsibility to be knowledgeable about the differences in air operations and their impact our our ability to care for our patients, as well as take care of ourselves.

Specific Flight Operations And How They Make Impact Crew And Patients

Unimproved landing zones pose the greatest treat to both patients and crews due to the many potentially unforeseen hazards found during a scene flight including power poles, wires, uneven ground, tripping hazards, pot holes, uncontrolled vehicles or animals, hazardous material, angry mobs, loose debris, fences, and sign poles.  These hazards are made even worse during night operations.  Weight limitations determine the size of patient that can be safely be transported.  Obtaining an accurate weight, including additional passengers and luggage, is essential so not to exceed the weight limitations of the aircraft including ensuring the weight is evenly distributed to ensure proper aircraft aerodynamics. Space, or the lack there of, is a significant hazard to overcome in all air medical transport environments, but especially during rotor-wing transports.  The limited amount of space within a helicopter determines the amount of medical supplies that can be carried by the medical crew.  It is essential to patient care that an accurate assessment of the patients need is made to ensure adequate medical equipment is available for etc entire duration of the flight under “worst case scenario.”  Combative patients pose an additional risk during both fixed wing and rotor wing transport due to the close proximity of the patient to the aircraft controls. Because of the nature of air medical transport, medical crew must take into consideration the potential for unexpected, and prolonged, patient care times.  Deviations for weather, mechanical problems, deterioration in patient status, hospital diversions, and other complications can tax available resources, including battery life, IV fluids, oxygen, and medication, and must be considered during preflight briefings. Additional considerations such as providing food and water, DVT prevention, and bathroom stops, must be taken into account for long-distance international flights.