Flight paramedics receive advanced training in medical treatment and emergency response procedures. In addition to completing training as emergency medical technicians (EMT), flight paramedics must know how flight affects critical patient care. Additionally, flight paramedics must understand aircraft operations and emergency procedures and must exhibit leadership and diplomatic qualities while caring for and transporting critically ill or injured patients.
The International Association of Flight Paramedics (IAFP) proposes that paramedics work full time for at least three years in a busy advanced life support system prior to certification as a flight paramedic. Flight paramedics should also complete the National Standard Curriculum and a critical care educational program that includes clinical rotations, practical and didactic sessions, and practical demonstration of sufficient medical and care proficiency. Flight paramedics must successfully pass the examinations for Flight Paramedic Certification (FP-C) and Critical Care Paramedic Certification (CCP-C) administrated by The Board of Critical Care Transport Paramedic Certification (BCCTPC).
The International Association of Flight Paramedics also recommends flight paramedics receive certification or equivalent education in each of several advanced medical disciplines for pediatric and adult critical care, including advanced cardiac life support, pre-hospital trauma life support, advanced pediatric life support and completion of a neonatal resuscitation program.
As a member of the flight crew, a flight paramedic is responsible for flight safety of the aircraft and occupants. In addition to patient care responsibilities, a flight paramedic must assess flying conditions and the flight worthiness of the crew. Flight paramedics utilize basic and advanced life support techniques in preparation for transport, perform post accident surveys, secure the patient and assess the patient's medical condition. Critical care treatments, including clearing and maintaining the patient's airway, cardiac, obstetric or neonatal life support, may be required. Flight paramedics monitor patients with various instruments and equipment and determine the need for oral or intravenous medications. Additionally, flight paramedics are responsible for recognizing any contagious patients and advising aircraft and emergency room staff and, if necessary, the appropriate authorities. Upon arrival, flight paramedics advise emergency room staff of the patients' condition and any medical procedures or drugs used to stabilize them. Post flight responsibilities include writing reports on each patient, replacing all used equipment and medications and sterilizing all equipment and the aircraft.
Flight paramedics may advance in their profession by becoming dispatchers, supervisors, operations managers or administrative directors. Advancements in the medical profession beyond flight paramedic are possible by furthering education and pursuing a career path toward a position as a registered nurse or medical doctor or specializing in another healthcare field.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics during the decade of 2008 to 2018 should increase by an estimated 9 percent. The Agency cites such factors as increased call volume, modest wages, extended patient treatment times, difficulty in recruiting and maintaining volunteers and an aging population.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 27 percent of paramedics and EMTs were union members and covered by union contracts during 2008. The Agency reports the median hourly wage for paramedics during the reporting period of May 2008 as $14.10. The top 10 percent of workers in this occupation received $23.77 per hour; although not officially cited, this group is likely to include flight paramedics, since they are the elite group in the paramedic profession.
- Photo Credit care flight helicopter image by sonya etchison from Fotolia.com
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