Flight paramedics, or flight medics, are often hired by the United States Army, military units and other agencies to provide emergency medical assistance and care during combat. Flight medics are trained to treat and stabilize those who are critically injured or ill during combat operations, and transport them to ambulances or hospitals via helicopter or plane. These paramedics must undergo intensive training and take specialized courses that focus on in-flight medical care. Most students who enroll in a flight paramedic training program are already licensed paramedics or have completed advanced emergency medical technician (EMT) training.
What Does a Flight Paramedic Do?
Flight paramedics are responsible for responding to emergencies and providing treatment during a flight. They may need to load and unload patients in MEDEVAC aircraft or helicopters, and stabilize or treat the patients during a short or long flight. Most flight paramedics work with soldiers or military personnel, but some may work for a hospital emergency department to provide patient care and treatment to civilians who have been injured from an accident and are en route to the hospital.
Flight paramedics must demonstrate advanced skill competencies at the EMT-Intermediate/Paramedic level, and take several advanced courses in areas such as personal recovery operations, pediatric care, flight medic pharmacology and other specialized courses.
Flight Paramedic Training Programs
Most flight paramedic training programs are based off the standards set by the National Flight Paramedics Association (NFPA). The NFPA states that the flight paramedic assumes the following roles and responsibilities:
- Providing advanced life support independently or with a flight care team
- Receiving instruction from a Medical Director or Medical Control Physician
- Taking an active role in conducting safe air medical operations
- Knowledge of handling hazardous materials in rescue and patient care situations
- Ensuring scene safety for their health care and rescue team
- Performing a rapid assessment or survey of life threatening conditions
- Performing thorough physical assessments and examinations in a high-stress environment, typically in flight
- Administering necessary drugs and providing treatment under specific protocols
- Communicating effectively with a rescue team of other flight paramedics, flight nurses, flight physicians and pilots
- Handling the rescue, triage and treatment process effectively
- Transporting patients to the nearest facility
- Documenting patient condition and treatments administered accurately
Most flight paramedic training programs require students to have at least three years of experience as an EMT-Paramedic working as an Advanced Life Support Provider before they can enter the air medical field.
Courses in a Flight Paramedic Training Program
Some of the common courses in a flight paramedic training program include:
- Flight Medic Pharmacology
- Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS)
- Drug Dosage Calculations
- International Trauma Life Support
- Pediatric Education for Prehospital Professionals (PEPP)
- Rapid Sequence Induction
- Helicopter Underwater Egress Training
- Personal Recovery Operations
- Canine Trauma Management
- Survival Training
Flight paramedics typically gain hands-on experience by completing the required clinical or didactic training in their flight paramedic training program, and by working on simulations or mock emergency trials.