Preparing for Your Air Ambulance Trip
Last week, we explained one step in the air ambulance trip that many people don't really think about: ground transportation from the patient's current location to the airport. Today, we're going to share some information on the steps we take to prepare a patient either for discharge from a hospital or skilled nursing facility, or simply to leave their current home. We'll also cover some details about what happens during the trip whether we travel by air ambulance, medical motor coach, or as an air medical escort.
Ideally, preparing someone for a medical transport trip actually starts well before the day of the actual transport (of course, that's not always possible, since some trips happen at the last minute). In most cases, however, a member of the MedFlight911 team will meet with the patient sometime in advance of the transport to go over all the details and answer any questions. We like to have this meeting no matter where the patient is coming from – their own home, a skilled nursing facility, or another location.
We usually share the following tips and suggestions with people who will be traveling with us:
- Do we provide food or does the patient have the ability to eat while traveling is a common question. We have even had passengers ask if we serve wine! The answer to the food question varies by method of travel:
- While traveling on an air ambulance, eating is discouraged for the patient. Often they are stressed about the journey and likely to become nauseous if they eat. Passengers traveling with the patients are offered light snacks and beverages by our crew.
- On medical motor coaches, we coordinate with the skilled nursing facility or hospital to insure the patient's diet is consistent while traveling. Thinking about food in advance is especially important if the patient is on a restricted diet.
- While traveling as an air medical escort, we need to be aware of the TSA's restrictions. We must follow all TSA restrictions for food and drink, and we must show the necessary documentation to allow any medications that the patient may require during the commercial flight.
- We remind patients to make sure they have more than enough medications to last through the entire trip. We pride ourselves our promptness and efficiency, but delays beyond our control do happen, and everyone can rest easier knowing that the patient has their necessary medications. We also like to remind patients and their families that any other passengers traveling should bring extra medications as well. It is important that all medications, for patients and passengers alike, come into the cabin with the patient. We are unable to pull medications out of the storage bins during our trip.
- We explain what the actual air ambulance trip (or in some cases, medical motor coach) trip is like. For a variety of reasons (including medical concerns and the size of the plane) people generally aren't getting up and moving around the cabin a lot during a flight. On medical motor coach trips, there are regular stops for refueling, bathroom breaks, adjustments, and more, but on air ambulance trips, movement is limited to stretching while in their seat or stretcher. Patients and passengers may be able to read, watch a movie or play games on a tablet, listen to music, or chat – whatever makes them more comfortable and passes the time. Our goal is always to do what we can to make sure that patients and their families are comfortable throughout their trip.
- It is important for patients and their families to be aware of space limitations in the medical motor coach and, in particular, on an air ambulance. There are no overhead compartments like on commercial airlines and space is often limited. We try to watch every item we bring aboard, while making certain we have all the necessities, to allow the maximum amount of space for the patient's luggage and possible passengers.
- Before departure, we also always confirm that the patient we are transporting is approved for care at the receiving facility. We never want to arrive at our destination and find the receiving facility surprised by our arrival. Knowing the patient will be going to a specific location also allows us to communicate with the team there in case anything does happen to the patient over the course of the air ambulance trip. We have even, at times, called ahead to ask for meals to be held when our patient was arriving past the dinner hour.
After we have an open conversation with patients and their families, we almost always find that they are more relaxed and less stressed about the upcoming journey. The unknown can be frightening, but by answering their questions and reviewing what to expect, a medical transport is a less scary prospect.