November 29, 2022 | Medicine, Operations, Our Team

Crew Ultrasound Training Complete

STARS Flight Nurse Alan Mart demonstrates the onboard ultrasound during a mock patient scenario

Nearly all STARS medical crews are certified in ultrasound, a mass training initiative believed to be a first in Canada.

Flight nurse and clinical instructor Shell Odenbach, who led the initiative to have ultrasound on board each helicopter and trained most flight nurses and paramedics, said the move is critical to advanced patient care.

“Ultrasound is our eyes and ears; it can inform the crew on why a person is so sick and helps guide our treatment and allows us to get the person to the right hospital,” said Odenbach. “In a mass-casualty event, it can help triage which patient needs to go the fastest and it lets us communicate our findings with receiving hospitals so they can prepare.”

STARS is the first organization of its kind in Canada to do pre-hospital mass training for crew comprising nurses and paramedics, added Odenbach. “We take pride knowing our medical crew are trained to a high standard with certification. We have a robust quality assurance program and have ongoing training and education in ultrasound.”

The average person might envision ultrasound as a large machine used on pregnant bellies.

Instead, the portable ultrasound machines resemble a tablet and are compact, lightweight and are the equivalent of what you would see in a hospital. They provide an enhanced and clearer picture to assist with rapid diagnosis and treatment of critically ill or injured patients.

“Traditionally there was an ultrasound on the aircraft,” explains transport physician and one of the leads for the ultrasound program at STARS, Dr. Tom Jelic.

“However, it was only for physician use.”

Dr. Jelic explained it made sense to have the crew trained on the devices as they are the ones on scene while a transport physician doesn’t always attend to the patient in person.

“The crew can phone me on my laptop and using the crew iPhone camera I can see their ultrasound images in real time as well as their hand position and guide them in real time on how to acquire certain images or help troubleshoot image acquisition,” explained Jelic.

“Now I can see the patient and it allows my crew members the support they may not otherwise have.”

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