In this year of so many unprecedented challenges, we want to express our utmost appreciation for all the frontline heroes across the country who have sacrificed so much for others in the fight against COVID-19.

The air medical field was hit with many challenges, including uncertainty about the nature of the virus, questions about adequate access to PPE for clinicians, flight crews, and patients, and concerns about financial and job security. Through this, the pandemic revealed the resilience of Air Methods teams and their ability to pivot in the face of adversity to meet the needs of vulnerable patients needing treatment.

As we look ahead to the new year, we remain steadfast in our uncompromised dedication to providing care to people who need it most.

Here is a taste of some of the selfless work of Air Methods crews across the country during this tumultuous year.

Air Methods’ contractual partner, Vanderbilt LifeFlight of Nashville, Tennessee, has been named the Air Medical Program of the Year by the Association of Air Medical Services (AAMS). This prestigious award, sponsored by Airbus Helicopters, recognizes an air medical program that has demonstrated a superior level of patient care, management prowess, and quality leadership through visionary and innovative approaches, customer service, safety consciousness, community service, and commitment to the medical transport community.

“The AAMS Annual Awards is a wonderful opportunity to highlight the leaders in our industry,” said Cameron Curtis, AAMS president and CEO. “After careful review of all the candidates for the Program of the Year, Vanderbilt LifeFlight rose to the top in best practices for crew safety and innovative patient care during its past 36 years of operation. We are thrilled to recognize the hard work and dedication of its entire team.”

While this marks the first time a Tennessee program has received the honor, it’s not the first time Vanderbilt LifeFlight has received national recognition from AAMS. In 2005, LifeFlight Executive Director Jeanne Yeatman received the AAMS Excellence in Transport Leadership Award and in 2003 former flight nurse Kevin High received the Crew Member of the Year award.

“LifeFlight’s strength is its culture; from the first day of service on July 1, 1984, the mantra of ‘safety is our number one product’ has been at the cornerstone of every decision and practice the program has ever made,” said Kevin Nooner, MSN, RN, NE-BC, air medical program director. “This phrase was coined by the program’s founder, Dr. John Morris, and has been the bedrock of the program.”

LifeFlight was the first civilian air medical entity to purchase the Airbus EC 145 with IFR capability in the U.S.; a significant investment in safety for the program. They were the first air medical program in Tennessee to achieve CAMTS accreditation in 2006 and used this as a springboard to bolster safety training and just culture.

In 2015, Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) partnered with Air Methods to provide aviation, fuel, maintenance, aircraft, dispatch, billing, and EMS licensure. VUMC provides all medical staffing, patient care, and clinical services for Vanderbilt LifeFlight.

“Air Methods is proud of our strong relationship with such a respected partner as Vanderbilt Medical Center to provide emergency air medical services through Vanderbilt LifeFlight,” said JaeLynn Williams, CEO, Air Methods Corporation. “It is the combination of Vanderbilt’s clinical expertise and Air Methods’ aviation excellence that will allow the program to continue to lead the air medical industry and we look forward to many more years serving communities throughout the state of Tennessee.

As the battle against COVID-19 rages on, so does the demand for patient care in rural areas. Recently, Univision, a leading Hispanic media company in the U.S., got an inside look at the heroic work Mercy Air crews are doing during the pandemic to move patients out of crowded hospitals in Southern California. Mercy Air, a subsidiary of Air Methods, established a base in Imperial County to focus on serving residents and bridging the distance between patients and the level of care they require.

Imperial County, a rural and impoverished region in Southern California with a population of about 180,000 people, has been a COVID-19 hotspot. At one point, the county was averaging about 900 infections per 100,000 people, compared with 371 in Los Angeles County during the same two-week period.

In response to the surge in Imperial County, a Mercy Air team that primarily focused on car accidents and other emergencies near the border pivoted their efforts to transport COVID-19 patients to hospitals across the state. Since March, Mercy Air has taken more than 100 COVID-19 patients out of Imperial County for treatment.

You can watch the full story from Univision here.

Mercy Air’s work in Imperial County is one of many instances of Air Methods crews going out of their way to support vulnerable communities. Across the country, Air Methods teams have worked tirelessly to transport COVID-19 patients out of overcrowded rural hospitals to other facilities. We could not be prouder of the entire Air Methods team for their dedication to coordinating care on the frontlines for those who need it most.

by Dave Olvera

The facilitation of advanced airway management in the prehospital setting is a critical technique for patient care. Historically, the modalities and techniques have changed in prehospital transport. Included in these updates is the advancement of intubation devices and enhanced cognitive offload tools.

Earlier this week, I wrote an article for AirMed & Rescue that discusses those updates and examines the importance of prehospital care. It includes information about preparation; intubation locations; the rapid sequence intubation (RSI) checklist; and implementing a quality dashboard or metric to evaluate internal airway management.

The goal of ongoing research and investigation highlights the importance of improving first-pass success rates through basic instruction. Included in these instructional practices should be knowledge of diverse intubation devices along with appropriate use of checklist utilization. These practices will improve first-pass success. To further determine needs and successes, individual programs can be combined into the larger GAMUT to compare and contrast data. Simplistic in form yet powerful in output, successful first-pass intubation practices save lives.

Read the entire article here.

David Olvera is a nationally registered paramedic, Certified Flight Paramedic, and Certified Medical Transport Executive, serving as Director of Clinical Research and Department Chair for the research committee for Air Methods. He serves on the International Board of Flight and Critical Care Paramedics as well as the MedEvac Foundation International. He is the Vice-President of Research at FlightBridgeED, a Veteran Combat Medic in the U.S. Army, and has published multiple abstracts and papers related to pre-hospital airway management, resuscitation, and advancing air medical transport research.