Flight for life refers to a prehospital service concerned with the provision of care services especially during emergencies, and which has many centers throughout the United States (Kingsolver 12). Primarily, flight for life offers medical transport of critically ill individuals to healthcare centers throughout the United States where they receive specialized medical care. In addition, the flight for life service operates by using several land vehicles alongside the fixed-wing aircraft in facilitating the transport of critically ill patients to specialized hospitals across America. Notably, the transport services by helicopter are very valuable in saving lives of victims of emergencies or patients under serious health conditions. Transportation of victims of people under critical medical condition especially by helicopter is not common in many countries, and this explains the importance of such services in America. The air mode of transport is the fastest and is often used for transporting patients with critical injuries or patients whose need urgent attention and any delay as can be with traditional forms of transport could prove ineffective. For example, people use the helicopter to carry specialty medical centers such as pediatric, burn and trauma facilities for urgent medical attention to save lives (Kingsolver 14). In essence, a large proportion of the American population depends on the use of helicopter transport to reach out to their critically injured or ill patients from the places of injury to the available specialty medical centers. In some cases, the helicopter provides transport necessary in rescue activities either independently or alongside ground units. Naturally, emergencies are unpredictable and require fast attention, a situation that makes the flight for life services one of the best available in the United States when it comes to saving lives of wounded victims or seriously ill patients.
History of Flight for Life
The flight for life service commenced as the second helicopter medical-based transport program in the United States of America on August 1, 1976 (Flight Nursing Core Curriculum 8). Dr. James H. Duke, who since inception has been the medical director of the prehospital service, founded the helicopter flight for life program. The prehospital helicopter service program operates with the accreditation of the commission on accreditation of medical transport operations. Approximately, 120000 patients missions have been beneficiaries of the service sins e its inception (Lee 19).
Typically, the French-built SA 319B is known to be the first helicopter used to carry out a life flight operation (Flight Nursing Core Curriculum 11). For many days, this French helicopter model was instrumental to the success of the operations of the flight for life. Later, the ‘TwinStar’ replaced the French plane. The ‘TwinStar’ had many special features such as high power, speed, bigger cabin space and was more stable. In addition, two turbine engines, present in the helicopter increased the safety of operations.
After some time, the life flight acquired the BK 117 helicopter to replace the ‘TwinStar.’ The design of this helicopter is excellent and maximizes the use of the cabin space. While the plane has no pillars blocking the cabin space, it has a bigger rear “clamshell” doors, which facilitate easy loading, and offloading of patients.In addition, this plane has been beneficial in facilitating neonatal transport and other forms of specialized transports.
In the year 2007, the life flight bought six twin-engine helicopters (EC 145).The six helicopters replaced the initial four planes that had been in use for quite a reasonably long period.one of the six helicopters operates from the Port of Houston in a move that is intentioned to increases the life flight services in the region. All the six helicopters have the capacity to airlift a maximum of two patients.
Usually, life flight operates within a radius of 150miles of Memorial Herman medical center in Texas. The service is present every day in 24hours and all days of the year. The service serves about 3000 patient missions every year. The area of operation of the life flight includes Western Louisiana and southeast Texas.
The life flight crew includes many people with different skills and responsibilities in the necessary for carrying out successful rescue and lifesaving operations. The life flight crews include flight paramedics, flight nurses, pilots and flight mechanics (Wrobleski &Vukov 18). In situations where the medical condition of a patient is detected before takeoff, the crew may composition may change to include a medical doctor or a respiratory therapist depending on the identified patient problem. The medical and aviation personnel of the life flight have a combined medical transport experience exceeding 240years.
Dr. James provides training to the medical staff to equip them with recurrent education and skills for the better performance of their roles in the crew. The mechanics obtain training from Eurocopter and constantly benefit from the engine-manufacturer-training sessions. For the pilots, they must possess the highest aircraft pilot certificate with a satisfactory flight experience.
Training allows the medical practitioners to carry out advanced procedures needed to contain the situation of seriously wounded patients of those suffering from severe health problems (Lee 21). The pilot is responsible for ensuring safe flying of the aircraft. However, the crewmembers can cancel any mission by rejecting to participate if they have reservations about the safety of the aircraft operation. In this respect, weather conditions form one of the important considerations before any takeoff or decision to perform an aircraft operation.
Treating patients in critical conditions sometimes requires the provision of medical care from more than one hospital. In essence, aircraft services are efficient when ground operations are adequate. For example, transporting a patient from one ICU to another may not be possible with the use of an aircraft. In this case, the flight for life uses a critical care transport ambulance commonly known as “Tera One.” The ambulances have nurses that manage the patient condition through various forms of care while transportation to increase chances of saving a life. Specifically, ground transport involves a drive of two hours through Vail to the west, Pueblo to the south, and Cheyenne to the north and Limon to the east.
“Terra One” services are based in St. Anthony’s Central and allows for transport of patients between centers and ensures that quality care is provided during the process. The ambulance transports patients having cardiac problems, fibrinolytic infusions or any patient that require intense medical care (Lee 22). The flight for life uses the second ambulance (Tera Two) in facilitating the access to critical care of communities that reside in mountains. The ambulance provides services throughout the day and night, and with no limitations because of weather conditions. The ambulance is staffed with a paramedic who provides patients with medical care during transportation to specialty care centers.
The third class of ambulances is the “Terra Three” which are responsible for transporting young children who need special care to designated health centers. When the child is in a critical situation, a helicopter is preferable for airlifting the child to the medical facility for critical care attention. However, on the return journey, once the child has received care, the ambulance is used for transportation.
Sometimes, more than one form of transport is needed to transport a patient to the point of care. For example, weather conditions may create a hindrance to the operations of a helicopter and make it difficult to transport the patient to the appropriate facility. Under these circumstances, the flight crews are expected to use all possible ways to ensure that they accomplish the transport.
Who Is A Flight Nurse?
A flight nurse is a trained nursing professional who provides medical attention and care to victims or patients during transportation, and before reaching the specialty medical facilities (.Wrobleski and Vukov 14). The provision of care during transport may involve rescue or life-saving flights in helicopters or ambulances.
Normally, a flight nurse is likely to work in the military or civilian sector. Notably, civilian flight nurses enjoy the freedom of choosing where they feel comfortable to work. Working as a military flight nurse may be less lucrative because one is continuously exposed to war-torn areas and the experience of dealing with severely wounded patients and soldiers may be discouraging. However, the civilian flight nurses receive lower salaries than the military flight nurses because of the relative risks associated with their respective workplaces.
What Do Flight Nurses Deal With?
Flight nurses perform various duties and responsibilities in their career. The major duty, however, is to provide the necessary care to patients. Besides, flight nurses carry out navigation roles such as communicating through the radio in order to inform the pilots of any information, for example, weather conditions. During the transportation of patients to health facilities, flight nurses keep necessary documents such as physician instructions and medical charts.
Similarly, nurses are responsible for ensuring that patients are secure before a helicopter takes off. The flight nurses secure patients by strapping patients to gurneys tied to the inside of the aircraft. Notably, patients with the critical condition need to transport without unnecessary jostling as the aircraft moves. Good strapping of patients to gurneys is useful in ensuring that they maintain balance and a resting posture.
Upon arrival in the specialty facilities, the flight nurses remove the patients from the aircraft and carry them to the point of care of the specialty medical centers (Wrobleski and Vukov 23). The process of carrying patients who are in a critical condition is difficult because the patients cannot support themselves. The flight nurses need to transport the patients to the receiving centers with caution to ensure that the patients do not succumb to their injuries. At the receiving centers, nurses have the responsibility to submit any documents to the care providers of the specialty facility. In addition, the flights nurses have are responsible for notifying the professionals at the specialty facility of the medical treatment given to the patients as well as informing them of any specific patient problems.
The flight for life service commenced as the second helicopter medical-based transport program in the United States of America on August 1, 1976. Flight for life is a prehospital service concerned with the provision of care services especially during emergencies, and which has many centers throughout the United States. In addition, the flight for life service operates by using several land vehicles alongside the fixed-wing aircraft in facilitating the transport of critically ill patients to specialized hospitals to America. The life flight crews include flight paramedics, flight nurses, pilots and flight mechanics. Therefore, emergencies are unpredictable and require fast attention, a situation that makes the flight for life services one of the best available in the United States when it comes to saving lives of wounded victims or seriously ill patients.
Flight Nursing Core Curriculum. Park Ridge: National Flight Nurses Assn., 2012. Print.
Kingsolver, Barbara. Flight Behavior: A Novel. New York: Harper, 2012. Print.
Lee, Genell. Flight Nursing: Principles and Practice. St. Louis: Mosby-Year Book, 2011. Print.
Wrobleski, Diane S., and Larry F. Vukov. "Training of Flight Nurses on Fixed-wing Air Ambulance Services." Air Medical Journal (2010): n. pag. Print.