Air Ambulance now

The capabilities of a fully-equipped Intensive Care Unit (ICU) in less than half the space - this is the working environment in a Saskatchewan Air Ambulance. Dubbed Lifeguard one, two and three, these airplanes are equipped with the most modern of equipment. Everything inside the aircraft is compact and stowed and secured in its proper place. Everything is weighed prior to being put on board so that the planes are ready to take off at a moment's notice. The stretchers have teflon feet that sit on a teflon base so the bed glides easily on and off the aircraft. The Air Ambulance service is a fascinating example of high-tech modern medicine.

Even though the equipment is new and of the highest quality, not much else has changed since 1946 when the service flew its first flight of mercy. There is still a pilot and a nurse on every flight. Flight nurses generally have 5 to 8 years of experience in critical care nursing prior to being hired as a flight nurse. That training is imperative given some of the high-stress situations in which flight nurses can find themselves. Flight nurses are also required to take an aeromedical course, given that caring for a patient in the air is different from caring for one on the ground. There are no doctors in the air so nurses have to be able to make snap decisions such as which drugs to give. There is a medical director who can authorize a transfer of function for flight nurses for specific events so they can provide needed care even if it is not within their regular scope of practice. If a patient deteriorates enroute, nurses first try and treat the patient with what they are authorized to do. If support is needed in treatment, the nurses call medical control to either receive advice or confirmation on what treatment to use.

Not all flights are emergencies. Some flights take sick children to out-of-province children's hospitals and some take adults to specialists outside the province. Although it is not a service usually offered, on occasion Air Ambulance is able to bring people home who have had treatment elsewhere.

Deaths have occurred on Air Ambulance Flights. Babies have been born aboard Air Ambulance flights. Every trip is a new challenge for flight nurses.
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