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James Cranford
James Cranford

Creation of a Flight Nurse Critical Care Ultrasound Program

Air Medical Journal 4/10/19


•Flight nurses with no previous experience can integrate portable ultrasound into patient care.
•Flight nurses used portable ultrasound most often during interhospital transfers from intensive care unit to intensive care unit.
•Ultrasound use frequently clarified the cause of patient symptoms.


Our objectives were 2-fold: to describe the creation of a flight nurse (FN) ultrasound (US) program and to evaluate whether critical care US performed by nonphysician providers in the prehospital setting can clarify patient assessment.

Twenty FNs completed a didactic and hands-on US curriculum focusing on critical care modalities. FNs displayed competency by successful completion of an objective-structured clinical examination. Portable US devices were used during patient transports when deemed clinically indicated by the FN. If US was subsequently performed, the FN was asked if US use prompted a change in assessment. Associations were evaluated with chi-square and bivariate logistic regression analyses.

FNs reported US use during 102 (12.3%) patient transports, of which intensive care unit (ICU) to ICU (58.8%) constituted the majority of cases followed by emergency department (ED) to ED (28.4%), ED to ICU (4.9%), and scene to ED (2.9%). FNs agreed or strongly agreed that US use clarified the cause of patient symptoms in 67.4% of transports.

FNs were more likely to perform US when they expressed lower confidence in their initial patient assessment. FNs reported that US helped to clarify patient assessments.