More ways to save lives – sharing skills in emergency medicine

At CareFlight, there’s more than one way to save a life.

In September, our education team were invited to run a special course at the Australian Society of Anaesthetists annual National Scientific Congress in Melbourne. The course was on keeping alive a patient with breathing difficulties in the rare but frightening situation when the standard method won’t work.

Anaesthetists are specialists in intubation. This involves placing a breathing tube down the throat into the trachea to maintain oxygen supply in an unconscious patient.

Like pilots training for an emergency they hope never happens, anaesthetists must be prepared for the scenario where, for a variety of reasons, intubation fails.

“The patient will literally die in a few minutes unless they get air going into and out of their lungs,” explains CareFlight’s Director of Training Dr Ken Harrison. “It requires a hole to be made in the front of the patient’s neck, a surgical procedure that anaesthetists normally don’t do.”

“I am sure that many patients across our nation will be much better off” – 
CareFlight’s Director of Training Dr Ken Harrison

CareFlight, with a number of other institutions, has developed the CICO – “can’t intubate, can’t oxygenate” – course which was first showcased at last year’s Congress in Darwin.

This year, the education team were invited to run the course for all participants in Melbourne. Over three days seven educators, all highly qualified doctors, nurses and paramedics with extensive pre-hospital experience, delivered eight two-hour courses for more than 130 consultant anaesthetists from around Australia and New Zealand.

The course included both skills and scenario training using 330 specially prepared mannequins. It drew on both medical expertise and the non-technical skills and knowledge of human factors that have been accumulated over 30 years of working with CareFlight pilots and emergency specialists.

Dr Harrison wrote in an email congratulating the team: “One of the joys and privileges of being an educator is to see people change their thinking and attitudes in front of you.

“I am sure that many patients across our nation will be much better off and it could not have been done by any other organisation I know.”