Dr. Ruiz says valuable lessons can be learned from the actions of the flight attendants, the firefighter, the captain, and passengers in the Flight 175 case. “We can prioritize service and improving the lives of people we serve above all else. When we do that, then we start to find that common ground that’s going to help us work together as a team. That’s what can happen when you put your skills to use for the betterment of your patients,” he says, adding wryly, “I just wish Congress worked that way.”
Explore This IssueACEP Now: Vol 33 – No 01 – January 2014
—Raul Ruiz, MD, MPH
Be Ready and Step Up
Dr. Ruiz and the firefighter sat on either side of the patient until the plane landed. He then relayed the pertinent history to the EMS personnel who met the plane, gave the flight attendants a tally of the emergency supplies that had been depleted, then went back to his seat and fell asleep for the next leg of the flight to Texas.
“It is a commonality of those who work in the emergency field,” notes Dr. Martin-Gill, “that we want to volunteer and assist. Our society looks upon us to help in such situations.”
Based on his experiences, what advice does Dr. Ruiz have for emergency medicine colleagues who find themselves in similar situations? “I don’t think I need to inform my colleagues about the ABCs and whatnot,” he says, “but it’s always good to introduce yourself as an emergency physician. Always think one or two steps ahead of all the possibilities and make sure that you have the equipment nearby that you need or that you may potentially need to help the passenger.” (See sidebar, “Be Prepared to Volunteer,” for a link to the FAA’s requirements regarding standard emergency medical equipment on commercial airlines.)
“My takeaway lesson to my colleagues,” continues Dr. Ruiz, “is to always heed the call of service. We are the most prepared to deal with emergencies, whether in the emergency department or on a plane. And when we step up, then good things happen.”
- Peterson DC, Martin-Gill C, Guyette FX, et al. Outcomes of medical emergencies on commercial airline flights. N Engl J Med. 2013;368:2075-2083.