Dave Whitehead is Angel MedFlight’s Chief Flight Paramedic. Dave has over two decades of experience in firefighting and paramedics. Every day, he works with Angel MedFlight’s Chief Nursing Officer to ensure our medical crew members across the country meet our operations and quality standards.
Yesterday our Chief Flight Paramedic, Dave Whitehead, spoke with CNN’s HLN Network about the recent tragedy in Hollywood Florida. News anchor, Erica Hill, mentioned that it’s been speculated that transporting patients sooner could have saved lives. Dave spoke to her about the challenges in transporting senior patients and how to prepare to get them safely to their next facility.
Transporting geriatric patients requires a lot of patience and care. Our medical crew members spend more time pre-flight with these patients than most to ensure they’re comfortable and relaxed.
At Angel MedFlight we ask these questions before transporting our elderly patients:
1. Do they have mobility issues?
Common complications that can contribute to mobility issues include Osteoporosis, spinal cord injuries, Traumatic Brain Injuries, and general fragility due to age or procedures. Our medical crew members often use extra mattress padding and bundling with space blankets for safe transports.
Our flight nurses and paramedics also take the “transfer with max assist” approach (using up to six clinicians and their bedsheets) to transfer patients comfortably without any painful or unnecessary effort or movement.
2. Are they hydrated?
Elderly patients often don’t remember to drink enough water throughout the day which can cause serious health concerns, including urinary tract infections. While it seems simple, checking to make sure a patient is well hydrated regularly saves lives.
We check to ensure our patients are hydrated and stay well hydrated throughout their flight with a water or saline IV drip whenever necessary.
3. Do they need help breathing?
Unfortunately, problems breathing are something we see frequently in our elderly patients. Our medical crew members work to evaluate oxygen saturation levels and provide oxygen on every flight unless specified otherwise by the patient’s physician.
4. Is anxiety or dementia an issue?
Some of our senior patients may suffer from anxiety or dementia. Our crew members are trained in working with patients under duress. They work to communicate with patients in a way that’s comfortable for them and administer anxiety medication when needed. Flight nurses and paramedics avoid making any sudden or quick movements that can create anxiety, and often allow a family member to sit in the patient’s view for comfort.
We treat all of our patients like they’re family, and at all times with dignity and respect. In the event that a patient does have an episode our crew members are trained in reassuring patients and making them feel more relaxed for the duration of the flight.
5. What is the patient’s current condition?
Understanding the patient’s current condition and any ailments is crucial to preparing for any air ambulance flight. Our Clinical team and patient advocates work with primary care physicians to ensure we have all the details necessary.
That means preparing for any medication that needs to be administered during travel – we work with the primary care physician to ensure patients receive any prescribed medications on time.
What are your questions?
Do you need more answers about what’s involved in transporting an elderly patient? Visit our site or call 866-502-3099 and speak with one of our Flight Coordinators – we are here 24/7.