How To Become an Air Ambulance Doctor

Published on March 31, 2022 | Last Updated on April 5, 2022 by

An air ambulance doctor or flight paramedic is a healthcare practitioner tasked with one of the most exciting jobs in the world. They serve at the forefront in aero-medical emergencies, evacuation missions, and transport. The job combines critical care professions’ expertise with the thrill of mobile air rescues.

More particularly, a flight paramedic is tasked with stabilizing or recovering a patient as they are ferried to more qualified and better-equipped facilities. This necessitates the provision of emergency medical services for individuals with severe trauma, illness, or injury. Therefore, flight paramedics must be capable of working in incredibly high-stress circumstances.

The air ambulance sector is presently rapidly growing and is an excellent career path if you are in the medical field. Doctors with outstanding problem-solving skills and fast wits are the most suitable for the task.

In addition, there is a degree of adventure involved as you rescue people stuck in extreme conditions. The fundamental aspects like being authorized and licensed in the state where you practice as a doctor are also mandatory. Aside from these, other particular aspects are integral for you to serve as an air ambulance physician.

Being Readily Available, More So During Air Ambulance Emergencies

The profession of air ambulance physicians is not time-restricted. Though many doctors may be used to emergencies, being on-call does not go well with most people. The majority of air ambulance organizations require that their flight physicians remain within a two-hour radius from their service base.

Additionally, the job demands dedication. As a physician, you might be required to attend regular education sessions and continuously demonstrate experience and expertise relating to contemporary prehospital care and hospital care. An air ambulance doctor may also be required to assume quality maintenance responsibilities.

Air ambulance offers invaluable emergency medical services. Whether flying a plane or a helicopter, piloting air ambulances is a satisfying career. However, the career is quite demanding and tough to get into and may require your qualification as a commercial pilot first. All the air ambulance service providers have laid-down minimum qualifications to practice as an air ambulance doctor. These vary from flight hours, certification, and education.

Basic Requirements and Qualifications for Air Ambulance Doctors/Physicians

The doctor must go through an aviation physiology course as per the Department of Transportation standards. In addition, this mandates attendance once every three years. Most organizations require that you have the certifications below, which should remain valid throughout.

  • International basic trauma life support
  • Advanced cardiac life support

Optional certifications include:

  • Advanced trauma life support
  • Advanced pediatric life support

Nonetheless, you should note that the qualifications may vary between different air ambulance service providers. Additionally, there are different qualifications for neonatal doctors and pediatric doctors who want to serve as air ambulance doctors. Though some companies may ask for previous experience, you can quickly come across an air ambulance service provider hiring certified and experienced doctors without any background experience as air ambulance doctors.

No two days are identical in the field of flight paramedics, and no two jobs are similar. There are bound to be some variations in this field. You might have the title “flight paramedic,” though the services you offer on shift depend significantly on the service type, that is, the employer you are working for.

Below are several examples of various service types

Hospital-based

Hospital-based service is a more prominent, extended organization sector, like a hospital or medical center. Such facilities develop and maintain special in-house air medical initiatives that extend their services. In some instances, the employees may work within the hospital when not responding to calls.

Municipal Agency

A town, city, state, or county can identify the necessity of an air medical scheme in their area. Then, they can set up an agency, much like a fire department, to address the population’s needs in such a case.

Private Service

Businesses are businesses. There are many private, for-profit organizations across the country, including some of the biggest air medical service providers globally. Such organizations may build up municipal agencies via contracts for different regions or rival other companies for patient care.

Despite the type of company you serve under, your work as an air ambulance doctor may involve any of the types of calls for service highlighted below.

Doctor speaking into walkie talkie

911 Scene Responses

On-scene first responders can call for aircraft to ferry a patient from an incident scene in such circumstances. This might be a fire, car accident, or extreme medical case. Regardless, someone is of the idea that the patient must quickly go to the hospital.

Interfacility Transports (IFT)

In some instances, a severely sick or hurt patient may require a transfer from a facility to a different one for a particular treatment or procedure that might not be on offer at the present facility. This is typically a necessity for a ‘higher level of care.’

Transfers usually include:

  • ER to ICU
  • ER to ER
  • ICU to ICU
  • ER to ICU
  • All other movements between hospitals

Search and Rescue

The collaboration of advanced medical training and flight positions put flight paramedics in the best place to carry out search and rescue missions. They may search extensive regions for lost patients as they serve in this capacity. Some missions also use hoist and rope rescue methods to remove patients from inaccessible locations.

Specialty Care

Some incidents require an extra touch. These teams concentrate on particular medical care subsets. These calls are usually seen for neonatal and pediatrics, though there are other examples like international repatriation and ECMO.

Does this career path seem interesting to you? If you wish to become an air ambulance doctor, you will need to complete the steps below:

  1. Become an EMT (emergency medical technician). The initial step towards being an air ambulance doctor is obtaining an EMT license.
  2. Enroll in a paramedic training course. After receiving the EMT certification, you will be required to get into paramedic training. The program will often need you to have some years of EMT experience before being accepted into the course.
  3. Go through your air ambulance training. After becoming a paramedic, you can begin your air ambulance training. Typically, this is a 32-hour long class spread over a four-day span, where you learn about various aircraft types, flight safety, and other essentials to guarantee your success in the air ambulance practice.
  4. Get a job. After successfully completing all the above steps, you will be set to practice as an air ambulance paramedic. You now need to get a job to offer the services.

How Should I Prepare for the Flight Paramedic Exam To Qualify?

To be a flight paramedic, you need to train as a ground paramedic. This procedure includes completing basic EMT training (EMT-B) and finishing the NREMT accreditation exam. As you work as a ground paramedic, you must continue learning by attending training courses and working on more certifications. It is also crucial that you keep your certificates up-to-date.

Additionally, aside from having the required certifications, you should also meet other fundamental requirements like being above 18 years of age, having experience of at least three years as a paramedic, and passing drug tests and criminal background checks. Other desirable characteristics of a flight paramedic candidate include working well in constricted areas, being physically fit, and succeeding in critical care treatment and high-stress trauma events.

Conclusion

The primary responsibility of a flight paramedic is taking care of patients as they are being transported to medical facilities. Your objective is to stabilize patients with serious injuries or monitor patients who require airlifts between hospitals.

This career path necessitates air service and EMT training. Therefore, many organizations will require that you have extensive ground EMT experience along with extra certifications in related medical fields. Usually, you will serve as a team member alongside a pilot and flight nurse onboard fixed-wing aircraft or helicopters.

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