airway_management.jpgNow that the new year has begun, it’s a great time to consider setting new goals, both personally and professionally. As a paramedic, one of your most important objectives should be skills proficiency. So if you feel a bit rusty or it’s been awhile since you’ve performed some hands-on training, now might be a good time to schedule a course. And there’s no area more critical than advanced airway management.

Let’s review some of the advanced airway options that are available to paramedics in the field, then we’ll discuss some of the ways you can refresh and hone your skills, so that you are prepared for whatever the new years has in store.


Advanced airway management considerations

The choices you make in the field when it comes to advanced airway management depend on several factors. They are:

  • Skill Level/Training – Your options are limited to those skills you have been trained in and can perform proficiently.
  • Equipment Availability – The equipment you have will depend on budget, training, and administrative considerations.
  • EMS System – The type of EMS system in which you work (rural vs. urban; level of backup) can also impact your decisions when it comes to advanced airway management.


Advanced airway management options

Below are the typical advanced airway options available to paramedics in the field.

  • Intubation
    • Orotracheal: Considered the standard for the unprotected airway, but contraindicated in the presence of copious secretions (have suction ready).
    • Nasotracheal: For use in the spontaneous breathing patient with a deteriorating airway but contraindicated in cases of nasal, facial or basilar skull fractures.
    • LMA – Seal maintenance is critical and be alert for aspiration (suction).
    • Combitube – Used in place of endotracheal intubation but contraindicated in patients under 16 years of age.
  • Surgical Airways
  • Needle Cricothyrotomy: Considered a temporary airway due to the restricted size of needles.
  • Surgical Cricothyrotomy: An alternative to oral intubation, especially in cases of trauma.
  • Rapid Sequence Intubation – Based on protocols, skills and training, and the necessary pharmacologic agents.


The year ahead

Now that we’ve reviewed the options for advanced airway management, here are a few things you can do to prepare for the year ahead:

  • Exercise Your Skills – There’s no better time to enroll in a training class, so that you can refresh old skills and perhaps pick up a few new ones.
  • Review Your Equipment – If it’s been awhile since you’ve used your equipment, whether it’s your airway kit, your pedi bag, or the specialized equipment you carry in each, pull them off the truck, spread them out, and go through each piece of equipment.
  • Hold a Discussion Group – If you’ve got some down time at the station, hold an impromptu study session where you can discuss protocols, procedures, and equipment. Sharing experiences and ideas is one of the most productive ways to learn, so put on a pot of coffee and share your stories.

As an emergency medical professional, one of your greatest responsibilities is to never stop learning. So as we kick off 2016, set new goals for yourself and hone your skills. Who knows what calls await you in the coming year.


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