Shadowing a DoctorJuly 27, 2016
Sometimes, emergencies can occur in remote locations – miles away from the nearest medical facility, unable to be accessed by an ambulance. In these cases, the only way to get the injured person or persons is by air, either by a helicopter or a small aircraft.
These aeroplanes and helicopters are kitted out with a wide range of advanced emergency equipment, meant to keep the individual alive while they are transported to a hospital for proper medical care. Flight nurses and paramedics play a key role in caring for these individuals; from the time they’re picked up until they’re handed over to hospital staff.
Job Description & challenges
Flight nurses specialise in giving emergency, life-saving care to severely injured or critically ill patients. They do all of the tasks that an ER nurse does in a hospital; from administering injections and medications, bandaging wounds and administering first aid treatment – to performing CPR, starting intravenous lines and resuscitation or advanced life support procedures.
Despite the several similarities, there are a few very fundamental differences between the two specialities. A flight nurse may perform the same tasks as an ER nurse, but the big differences lie in their work settings and their support system. Unlike ER nurses – who have all of the hospital equipment at their disposal if necessary – a flight nurse has to make do with the limited equipment available on that particular aircraft. Moreover, they have to monitor patients, make quick decisions and perform complex tasks on their own without consulting anyone else.
Another challenging aspect of working as a flight nurse is the fact that they have to contend with G-force and pressurised cabins that can interfere with the patient’s physiology and make things more complex. Procedures such as defibrillation – which is routine in a hospital ER – become highly delicate when performed in the pressured atmosphere of an aircraft.
As a flight nurse, you will also have to complete all the paperwork and other formalities such as recording the patient’s medical history, which is then transferred to the hospital while handing over the patient into their care.
Because of the nature of the job, these attributes are essential in a flight nurse:
- The ability to triage and prioritise when faced with an emergency in which several people are critically sick or injured
- The ability to work autonomously and make quick decisions in life-or-death situations
- Good analytical skills and the ability to work under pressure
- Love of flying and thorough knowledge of flight physiology
Good communication and interpersonal skills are also important traits for a flight nurse. This is a very frightening time for patients who may be badly hurt or seriously ill. Talking to patients calmly and confidently can help to reassure them. Training in basic and advanced cardiac life support, altitude physiology, basic and advanced trauma life support, paediatric advanced life support and neonatal resuscitation can come in very useful for anyone looking to pursue a career as a flight nurse.
Gap Medics provides year-round hospital work experience for people aged 16 and over. Our shadowing placements offer a unique insight into the work of doctors, nurses, midwives, and dentists – helping students to focus their career aspirations before embarking upon medical training.