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Ten weeks to take-off: Air medical crew training is intensive and exhaustive

01.11.2013 Training Operations

Ever wonder what it might take to work as a flight paramedic or flight nurse?

As it turns out, selected applicants looking to become part of a STARS air medical crew need to complete 10 weeks of intense, exhausting, comprehensive medical training, including realistic simulations and flying on actual STARS missions. Oh, and you will need prior experience providing emergency or critical care. And you must be certified in advanced cardiac life support and pediatric advanced life support.

Shannon Koch, air medical crew paramedic with STARS in Saskatchewan, completed her training in the spring. Even with her 12 years of experience as a paramedic with Regina’s emergency medical services, Koch described her 10-week odyssey as “overwhelming, challenging and exciting.”

WEEKS 1 TO 3: ONLINE LEARNING
Before trainees even get to the classroom, they spend three weeks absorbing online materials and becoming well-versed in STARS’ medical guidelines and topics such as pharmacology and ventilator management.

Shannon: “You need to manage your time, because there is a lot of information there. The biggest learning curve for me was learning to manage the ventilator. As the paramedic, you’re considered the go-to for airway care, so the ventilator is your baby.”

WEEK 4: CARDIAC EMERGENCIES
This marks the beginning of two weeks of classroom and simulation work. A significant portion of STARS calls involve cardiac incidents, so air medical crew members must be thoroughly trained in diagnosing, stabilizing and caring for such patients.

WEEK 5: PEDIATRICS AND TRAUMA
In addition to training in neo-natal care and obstetrics, trainees undergo numerous simulation exercises in dealing with trauma patients — combining critical thinking and problem-solving skills with their medical knowledge while tending to realistic mannequins that actually speak, gesture,
and respond to medications.

Shannon: “This was no table-top exercise. It’s very involved. Someone is playing the role of the doctor, someone else is playing the family member. You lose yourself in the scenario.”

WEEKS 6 THROUGH 9: FROM TRAINING TO PRACTICE
Trainees now begin moving out of the classroom and into real-time, realworld critical and emergency scenes, accompanying, observing and supporting STARS air medical crew at work.

Shannon: “I saw first hand how smoothly it all works when the air crew works well with the ground EMS and when the ground ambulance crew is used to the helicopter coming. It was seamless.”

WEEK 10: FINAL TESTING
Trainees undergo four days of assessment, working through more simulations and skill sessions, while monitored by a STARS physician. If they successfully complete this testing, they begin their mentorships at a STARS base.

Shannon: “The education and training we get through STARS is second to none. I feel confident that I can go out and treat a patient, and even if it’s something we haven’t seen before, we have the critical thinking and problem-solving skills to get the patient the care they need.”

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