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Adam Collins

Adam Collins

Medical Student
Edinburgh
5th year medical student at The University of Edinburgh, interested in EM, PHEM, Critical Care and Anaesthetics, with a side of #FOAMEd and #MedEd. twitter.com/ac108
Foo20151013 2023 quzkes?1444774189
5
612

Hello World, I've been to London's Air Ambulance for a bit...

Hi. Or rather, #HelloMyNameIs Adam. I like trauma, emergency medicine, PHEC, #FOAMed, twitter and scuba diving (but only when there's sunshine involved afterwards). I also like teaching and education, and I'm one of the final year medical students here in Edinburgh. But for 2 months I wasn't. I was one of the London's Air Ambulance elective students down in Whitechapel at the Royal London Hospital. So as an opening gambit, and by some way of an introduction I thought you might want to hear about that. After all, they're much more interesting than I am, and I can't host you for your elective… I managed to swindle my way into a 2 month elective with LAA just before Christmas 2014 and in a word it was pretty great. For those of you thinking of doing it, just go, now, and apply. Then you can come back and read the rest of my ramblings. For the rest of you, here’s what happened. LAA electives are a bit different, unsurprisingly. To cover its 1800-odd missions a year, LAA runs both their trauma service in two flavours: a helicopter (G-EHMS, aka “Mike Sierra” or MEDIC 1) by day and a car (DA “Delta Alpha” 77 or MEDIC 1 NIGHT) by night, (because apparently, whilst sporting and enjoyable for the pilots, landing in metropolitan areas in the dark is too risky, especially with comparatively empty roads). Alongside the trauma service, there is also a Physician Response Unit (PRU) which responds locally to cardiac arrests to provide quality CPR (along with some advanced post-arrest care like cooling and delivery to a cath lab), but for the most part does jobs for the London Ambulance Service which have been deemed probably not to require hospital, but might benefit from a doctor. There’s a 5 year waiting list for day-time flying shifts, and not much less for the rest of their work, so you’re not going to spend 4, 6 or 8 weeks in a helicopter flying round London taking names and saving lives, in fact the helicopter schedule is totally off-limits to students. Instead you’ll start off scheduled for a couple of night shifts each month and there will be opportunities to see a lot of London Ambulance Service, from the “control” at the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC), to time spent with road crews, and, off the back of some of the folk you’ll meet, a route in to observing with some more specialist units too. (More on that in the future if I run out of other ideas!) As well as the “live” experience there are 5 very experienced senior registrars from a variety of backgrounds as well as the 4 full-time LAA consultants, and opportunities to learn both practical skills and theoretical knowledge from them abound. As it turned out, the PRU was probably my favourite part of the elective. You can read about all the trauma that LAA goes to elsewhere, its splashed all over their shiny new website for a start, and many things have been written about their work (I might even write some more later on!) and there’s even a (not great) telly program on Channel 5. But the PRU is just really cool. I hate that word but it is. It fits into a strange, but now expanding niche in emergency care. That is, it serves to lighten the load both on the ambulance service and on the Emergency Departments of London by going out to people who have called 999 and asked for an ambulance but might in fact be better managed in the community. The work is incredibly varied, you can see older folk with a nasty UTI who couldn’t get to see their GP, you can go to a school and glue the head of a kid who’s taken a nasty fall in the playground, or you can end up in some sheltered housing talking to a lady who’s having the roughest of times and trying to deal with borderline personality disorder to boot. The PRU is crewed about half the time by a small group of GPs and EM docs who have been doing it for a while, usually about once a week or so, and quite often in their own time (in between the rota is made up with the LAA docs who usually work the trauma service). They’re kept firmly in line by an experienced LAS paramedic who is seconded over to run this unit, 9-5, 5 days a week, usually for about a year. As a team, they have perfected their ability to assess a patient using the minimal resources available to them, and as we are so often reminded, quite rightly, it turns out to be all in the history. Some interventions are available to them that aren’t available to paramedics, prescribing antibiotics or other drugs to leave with the patient, bypassing the ED for referral straight to specialists, and doing urine dipsticks being the most used among them; but mostly it is the team’s experience and advanced clinical judgement which makes this unit tick, and empowers them to safely leave so many of their patients at home, with care delivered, advice given, and a plan arranged should anything deteriorate. This wasn’t my first rodeo, I’ve been lucky enough to spend some time with the Scottish Ambulance Service up here in Edinburgh, and have spent more than my fair share of time in our Emergency Department, but it was still impressive to see how these guys dealt with the delicate balance of who to leave at home and who might need a further investigation in hospital. Firstly, this is something that anyone who aspires to work in an emergency department should aspire to be comfortable to do. There are going to be a huge number of people who don’t need to be admitted coming through it every day, wherever it is. The faster and more confidently you can identify their problems, treat them, and crucially, reassure them with appropriate advice, good follow up and a safety net, the better experience they will have. Of course much of this comes with experience and training, but tagging along with teams like this is a fine way to start getting some. Secondly, and this is a bit of a stab in the dark, but I think this idea really might take off. The media is almost swamped with stories of A&E departments being overwhelmed, ambulance services are operating at or near capacity, and we’re struggling to work out how we get the public to access the right care provider for their problem at that time. So maybe this is a solution. Maybe doctors, have a new role to play in assessing people earlier rather than people going through so many steps down a potentially unsuitable line of care. We’re starting to see consultants running triage at A&Es, we’re starting to see doctors out in cars like this. Get in on the ground floor guys and girls, I think we’re going to start being “first on scene” a little more often than we might be used to, even if you never leave the hospital.  
Adam Collins
about 7 years ago