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Job Description for a MedEvac Worker

The wail of sirens and frantic lights of an ambulance roaring through traffic remind us that, very often, an accident victim or critically ill patient may live or die based upon how quickly he reaches a hospital. Trading ambulances for helicopters, MedEvac workers take charge of patients considered too ill to survive the extra minutes needed for ground transport. Those interested in making a profound difference in the lives of others may find the career a challenging but rewarding fit.

Job Description

MedEvac teams include flight paramedics and/or flight nurses who work in tandem with doctors and nurses at the hospital receiving the patient. When called to the scene of an accident or trauma, they attempt to determine and stabilize the patient's condition while readying him for transport. They relay information about vital signs and injuries to the hospital and receive directions or approval from physicians regarding treatment. At the hospital, they give pertinent facts to appropriate medical personnel about the patient's in-flight condition and care, which might include administering medication, giving supplemental oxygen or using a defibrillator to restart the heart. MedEvac crews also transport stable but critically ill patients from one facility to another to receive specialized care for brain injuries, burns or cardiac issues.

Work Environment

Describing a paramedic's career as physically challenging and stressful, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes their jobs require frequent kneeling, bending and heavy lifting. This holds true for the flight paramedic or nurse as well since the only real difference in their job lies in the mode of transportation. They work indoors and outdoors during all but the most severe weather and may have to communicate with law enforcement or emotional bystanders as they assess a patient's condition. They must remain calm, relay accurate information and process instructions quickly during radio contact with physicians at the hospital as they attempt to keep their patient in the best condition possible during transport – all while riding in a helicopter.

Education and Training for Flight Paramedics

Paramedics typically need the equivalent of an associate's degree to receive the licensing required throughout the U.S. They study anatomy and physiology and receive extensive training in basic medical skills, including use of defibrillators, giving intravenous fluids and clearing airways. Some organizations, such as Lehigh Valley Health Network in Pennsylvania, hire only certified EMT-Paramedics for their flight crews and supply further training "designed to bring a higher level of care to each air medical mission," such as advanced airway management. Their flight paramedics also complete courses in advanced cardiac life support, pediatric advanced life support and basic trauma life support.

Education and Training for Flight Nurses

Flight nurses start as registered nurses, generally taking approximately four years of classroom study and clinical training to complete that degree, according to the BLS. They then take additional classroom and clinical training for certification in critical or emergency care and, in many cases, must have several years of hands on experience as a critical care unit or emergency room nurse before qualifying as a candidate for flight nurse. Once hired, organizations typically put flight nurses through training in medical air transport and may require them to fulfill other training and certification obligations. For instance, LVH requires its flight nurses to acquire or maintain certification in advanced cardiac and pediatric life support.

Income and Job Outlook

As of 2010, flight nurses earn, on average, $73,000 and flight paramedics $51,000 annually. The BLS expects nursing jobs to grow by 22 percent between 2008 and 2018, but specialized areas like flight nursing may not experience such high demand. Overall job growth for paramedics is nine percent between 2008 and 2018, according to the BLS.



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