Updated RERN Action Cards

I’ve been playing around with cognitive aids such as checklists and action cards for a couple of years (some are available via the RESOURCES section of this site or RURALDOCTORS.NET. Most of these were designed for handing off to nursing staff in the rural ED, partly to mitigate against the phenomenon of people disappearing off to the ‘big book of infusions’ to look up compatibilities during infrequent care of critical patients. I certainly have no problem with cognitive offloading and use of such aids in a crisis – pilots do it, and I think use of action cards is an under-utilised phenomenon in the emergency medicine.

These checklists and action cards were designed to be used both in printed format or electronically as PDFs (ipads are great for this). However working in the prehospital environment soon teaches that reliance on technology (particularly iPad or iPhone) is not without problems – mobile coverage is dismal in country (and can be at altitude)…and power failures, inadvertent water splashes or hard knocks can trash iShiny devices too easily. Recognising this, MedSTAR issue their staff with a “Vuey Tuey” – basically a 20 page clear pocket folder that fits easily in a flight suit pocket. It contains useful phone numbers, flight times to rural hospitals and other useful information.

This is the Vuey Tuey issued to MedSTAR doctors to carry in flight suit – it contains useful information for “on the job” and doesnt require batteries
Extra pages can be added and content modified to preference. So good, I decided to make my own for RERN…

I’ve snaffled a few of these “Vuey Tueys” from eBay (they’re also available from Army Surplus stores online). The 40 page one is not overly thick (about 1cm) and accommodates 80 sheets of paper. The aim was to create a series of action cards useful for rural doctors, particularly members of the South Australian Rural Emergency Responder Network (doctors who respond to prehospital incidents to back up local volunteer crews where no ICP available).

So here’s a series of RERN ACTION CARDS – designed with members of the South Australian rural doctor RERN team in mind  – but the content may be useful for any rural doctor who is looking for a quick pocket reference that can be easily adapted to local use.

The original was created in Pages on OSX, then converted to indivdiual PDFs and merged into one document. I am more than happy to share original files if anyone wants them to modify, or can download the entire PDF here.

One quirk of the “Vuey Tuey” is the page size – 95 x 135mm! So I generally print out two sheets onto A4 and trim up with a paper cutter.

Contents include:

  • principles of prehospital care
  • airway
  • breathing
  • circulation
  • crisis algorithms
  • drug doses

I am a big fan of making content available for all to share – and am happy to add extra sections or modify content if needed.

I should also emphasise that this content is NOT from MedSTAR, but a collation of various tips and FOAMed that I’ve found useful. Interestingly some retrieval services make their content available to share – I remain impressed with the efforts of SydneyHEMS, AucklandHEMS and UK-HEMS in this regard. Indeed, Karel Habig and colleagues gave some useful lectures at the 2014 Rural Medicine Australia conference – it’s refreshing to see such content from prehospital care creeping into rural arenas – and the PROTECTAustralia paradigm is very worthwhile.

Certainly with approx 2/3rds of trauma coming from rural areas, it makes sense to engage with rural clinicians and strive to drive “quality care, out there”

I am no expert, but seems to me that much of critical care is about doing the basics, well – and that whilst some rural doctors embrace the challenge of managing these patients, others are understandably nervous or feel under-prepared. I think this is where FOAMed, delivering asynchronous content, robust clinical governance and standardisation of protocols such as infusions etc can make a difference.

Anyhow, here are the cards. It’s a work in progress. Enjoy!

RERN ACTION CARDS – click to download (NB RERN = Rural Emergency Responder Network)

Feedback and suggestions for additions/alterations welcomed.

They’re not accidents, are they?

It was back in 2001 that I read a piece in the British Medical Journal entitled “BMJ bans accidents” – hardly a new idea (it dates back to at least 1993) – yet we still hear reference to “road traffic accidents” (RTAs) or “motor vehicle accidents” (MVAs).

Words are important; I have been convinced of the BMJ argument for the past decade. I am not alone – others say “if you care, use the term crash“. The premise is simple – use of the term “accident” implies a sense that bad outcomes are due to fate or luck, rather than factors within our control. Indeed use of the term “accident” almost absolves anyone of culpability.

I am currently working in the prehospital environment. Like colleagues, I do not judge my patients – they are invariably critically unwell and my job is simple – to ensure they receive the best possible care with the minimum of delay, working within a well-governed organisation of trained clinical professionals.

However Christmas and New Year are fast approaching, and there is a sense of inevitability; namely that this holiday season will again be marred by tragedy on our roads, often due to drink- or drug-driving.

What would be the best Christmas gift for colleagues and myself this year?

That we did not have to respond to roadside primaries, nor for community members to experience personal tragedy.

With this in mind, I’d recommend the following video – a montage of road safety videos from the TAC in Victoria, Australia (ironically, this stands for Transport Accident Commission)

It is sobering stuff. I remember hearing trauma surgeon Karim Brohi talk at the Australian Trauma Society conference in Melbourne, 2006 – he commented that “it’s better to be the fence at the top of the cliff, rather than the ambulance at the bottom“.

In trauma medicine we tend to get very excited about the sexy things – prehospital REBOA, clamshell thoracotomy, helicopters etc and debate is always heated on chestnuts such as subclavian vs IO access, fluid resuscitation, skill mix of retrieval teams etc.

There is no doubt that the downstream consequences of trauma are horrific.

Instead I wonder if the greatest gains in trauma medicine are actually to be found with the unsexy – with primary prevention (um, that’s the GPs) and with rehabilitation (thats rehab physicians, physiotherapists and other allied health).

We don’t often consider the contributions from primary care and rehabilitation in trauma care – perhaps we should.

Prevention is indeed better than cure. Please, this Christmas – don’t drink or drug-drive.


Airway Classics – A Love Supreme?

Many people are eagerly awaiting the release of the new Difficult Airway Society UK (DAS UK) guidelines, in the wake of their recent Annual Scientific Meeting.

Some recommendations are available HERE and include :

  • acceptance of gentle mask ventilation during RSI
  • use of videolaryngoscopy as an option in initial intubation plan
  • apnoeic diffusion oxygenation
  • didactic technique and training for emergency surgical airway

One other recommendation caught my eye – namely to use second generation LMAs

Now the Classic LMA (cLMA) was the brainchild of Archie Brain; it is a wonderful device and has been in commercial use since 1987. It is easy to use and affords the ability to ventilate – although does not protect the airway. Some critics would argue that the LMA has deskilled a generation of anaesthetists, who may use the cLMA for routine cases rather than bag-mask or intubate. I disagree – it is just another tool in the armamentarium.


LMA Classic - cLMA
LMA Classic – cLMA


However I made a decision a few years ago to switch to the Supreme LMA – a lovely second generation LMA that is a step up form the ‘initial’ second generation LMA (the ProSeal). The Supreme combines an integral bite block with a gastric drainage channel in the tip, unlike the ProSeal.

Supreme LMA - sLMA Note gastric drainage channel at tip of cuff
Supreme LMA – sLMA
Note gastric drainage channel at tip of the LMA bowl (R)

But there is a problem – once in place, it is almost impossible to pass an ETT tube through the Supreme.

Many people will be familiar with the Intubating LMA (iLMA) – the brand most use ins the FastTrach. It’s not a bad device – it allows blind intubation rates of up to 90%, using the LMA as a rescue ventilation device and then as conduit for an ETT.

FastTrach Intubating LMA - iLMA
FastTrach Intubating LMA – iLMA

The large handle on the device is designed to facilitate manoevuring of the iLMA in the oropharynx, ideally allowing the bowl of the LMA to align with the glottic opening and hence allow blind passage of an ETT. There is a great paper from the originator of these maneouvres, Chandy Verghese. A description is available HERE – anyone using the FastTrach should be able to perform the “Chandy Manouevre(s)

I like the FastTrach – it is a good ‘go to’ device for rural and remote doctors as allows both rescue ventilation and possible intubation – no pissing around with fancy fibreoptics or calling for help – none is available in the bush! However there are some problems – it’s expensive and it doesn’t have a gastric drainage channel. Furthermore, one can get into a world of hurt if attempting to remove the iLMA over the ETT per instructions. This might include stripping off the pilot cuff of the ETT or ‘losing the airway’…one should read the infamous ‘exploding scrotum‘ case for a masterclass in airway catastrophe.

So problems with the FastTrach are not uncommon in inexperienced hands – precisely the time when you least want to have an additional problem after failed intubation. My advice? Once in, leave both iLMA and ETT in situ until the patient is either awake or you are somewhere with backup!

Furthermore, the FastTrach has a somewhat hyperacute angle, meaning that even if you have a basic fibreoptic device (such as a malleable FO stylet), this cannot be used to turn blind intubation into fibreoptic intubation via the iLMA conduit.

What we need is a device combining the benefits of a second generation LMA (eg Supreme) with an intubating LMA. Enter the second generation iLMA, the AirQ-II

I first heard of these in 2011 from James duCanto in the States. They’ve also had some coverage from Scott Weingart over at EM-Crit in the past. It’s basically a second generation iLMA which is :

  • cheap
  • useful as a rescue ventilation device ie 2nd generation LMA
  • able to be used as an intubating LMA for blind intubation
  • less acute curvature of the tube will allow passage of both flexible and malleable stylet fibreoptics, for visual intubation
  • integral bite block and gastric drainage channel
The AirQ-II iLMA with separate orogastric tube
The AirQ-II iLMA with separate orogastric tube


An elevation bar helps direct ETT tip from bowl of LMA into trachea. The orgastric tube is passed down separate channel adjacent and under the bowl of LMA, into the oesophagus
An elevation bar directs ETT tip from bowl of LMA into trachea. The orogastric tube (left) is passed down separate channel adjacent and behind the bowl of LMA, into the oesophagus

I’ve replaced the FastTrachs with Air-Q IIs in both my RERN prehospital pack and also on our hospital difficult airway trolley. Indeed, for the finance-limited environment of a small rural hospital, the combination of the AIrQ-II along with a fibreoptic device such as a Levitan FPS scope offers a fairly robust option for difficult intubation – drop in an AirQ-II, then wither blindly intubate or use the malleable fibreoptic stylet to pass the tube under direct vision. Then leave the ETT-LMA in site and pop down an orogastric (difficult to do with the FastTrach). James DuCanto writes well on this with a simple guide and Weingart explains how to mould a malleable stylet to conform to the AirQ anatomy.

If you don’t need an intubating LMA, then follow the guidance of DAS2015 and go with a second generation supraglottic device – like the Supreme.

But if you want to allow maximum flexibility including integral intubating-LMA capability, it’s hard to beat the Cook Gas AirQ-II – especially of trying to put together an affordable yet robust difficult airway kit for rural/remote.


RAGE podcast – great FOAMed

I just have to give a shout out to the RAGE PODCAST this week. If you have been living under a rock, the RAGE podcast is a semi-regular “resuscitationists awesome guide to everything” featuring top quality FOAMed contributers who are credible in their field.

“Do not go gentle into that good night

Rage, rage against the dying of the light

Dylan Thomas

This months session is entitle neuroRAGE and deals with all things to do with neurosurgical emergencies. It features Mark Wilson who speaks authentically on experiences as a HEMS physician, neurosurgeon and with some significant anaesthetic experience. I managed to talk with Mark on “Burr holes in the bush” a couple of years ago and since then the idea of prehospital Burr holes has been enthusiastically mooted elsewhere. Is this something that a prehospital service clinician needs to be able to do? Is an extradural the ‘tension pneumothorax of the skull?

Mark gives good talks (if you saw him at smaccGOLD and were impressed, the good news is that he’s back at smaccUS). He’s also prepared to share – he gave a great talk at medSTAR clinical governance day earlier this month and was a major contributor to Sydney HEMS themed neurotrauma session earlier this year – content from the latter is available online. He also runs the AcuteBrain website and is a coninventor of the GoodSAMApp


Also on RAGE, Cliff Reid also gives a lovely description of being on the end of both an LP and in the K-hole, reinforcing the need for concomitant benzos and (where possible) a calm, low stimulus environment to avoid emergence phenomena.

I’ve certainly noticed similar tales of spiral ‘helter skelter’ sensations amongst my dissociated patients…to me this emphasises the need to be familiar with ketamine for both induction, dissociation and analgesia – something all trainees should endeavour to gain experience with in their anaesthetic placements or in ED.

Here’s a video of the potential nasty dissociative effects of ketamine – I love the drug, but consider adding some benzo if appropriate

Anyhow – trust me on this – LISTEN TO THE neuroRAGE podcast. It’s a good one!



It’s gonna be smaccTASTIC! #smaccUS

After months of planning from the smaccTEAM, the programme for smaccUS is now released and available on the smacc website
The program looks HOT – some old favourites and some new allsorts. The genius that is Mark Wilson will be cohosting a fabulous “it’s a Knockout” neurotrauma session….and there are many concurrent sessions and “cage matches” on topical issues.
Plus there’s an excellent round of pre-conference workshops and a chaotic but entertaining social calendar; I am already looking forward to catching up with old friends and making new ones – all united by a common interest in critical illness, from a variety of perspectives (intensivist, emergency, rural, prehospital, medical, nursing, paramedic, social worker etc)
Chicago is a great venue and the first time smacc has ventured overseas. If you missed macc2013 in Sydney and smaccGOLD in 2014 and are wondering what makes this conference different, check out the commentaries at :
…or the smaccVIDEOS from intensivecarenetwork & affiliated sites :
I am delighted to be sandwiched in a session with EM giant Joe Lex, Scandanavian powerhouse from ScanCrit Thomas Dolven and my old mate from BroomeDocs, Casey Parker – all under the watchful eye of Minh le Cong.
Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 1.54.16 pm
Needless to say I have started preparation on my talk already; I owe inspiration to Penny Wilson (@nomadicGP) for the kernel of an idea which may take fruit at #smaccUS. One should always aim to deliver a memorable talk, so I am learning from the example of an unforgettable talk as made infamous by Prof Brindley
Prepare for your corn to be grilled…

Keeping it all together…

Like most clinicians, my time spent in anaesthesia drilled me in the importance of performing routine pre-anaesthetic machine checks, of keeping the workspace tidy and paying meticulous attention to detail. ‘

These lessons translate well into other areas of practice – at the start of every on call period in emergency, I check the resus trolley and store boxes to ensure we have the right kit available. In recent times I’ve begun to think more and more about resus room ‘feng shui’ – the concept of making sure that the components of the room are ordered correctly, eg :

  • resus & airway trolley on the intubator’s right side so as not to impede visual axis during intubation
  • all monitoring/O2/suction cables & tubes running from single point, allowing almost complete 360 degree access
  • orientation of bed so that clinicians can see monitors, clocks, whiteboard, equipment etc
  • colour-coding of equipment so as to group kit together for those unfamiliar with set up or in a crisis
  • clear signage to essentials such as defib, difficult airway trolley, paediatric kit etc

Working with MedSTAR retrieval builds on this and I get to indulge by obsessive compulsive disorder (it’s called OCD, but aficionados know that it should be called CDO – you…have…to get…letters…in…right order).

Every day starts off with a full kit check (using a challenge-response checklist), then kit tagged and labelled – anything with a broken seal gets a full re-check. Packs are colour coded to aid recall in a crisis (it’s easy to ask a firefighter to get the ‘small red pack sitting in the big blue pack’ rather than tell ’em to get the arterial line kit). MedSTAR uses an RSI kit dump plastic bag that doubles as a clinical waste repository, with an integral challenge-response checklist.

One of the two-person team (typically doctor-nurse or doctor-paramedic) carries a drug pouch with Schedule 8 drugs (fentanyl, ketamine etc). The team always carry pagers, GRN radio and an iPhone (the latter contains checklists for daily kit checks, contact numbers and SOPs).

In recent times an iPad Mini has become available as an option – although no good as a communication device (unless use FaceTime or Skype!), it is easier to use for performing checklists and reading SOP PDFs. It also allows for addition of useful clinical apps such as Matt & Mike’s excellent Bedside Ultrasound iBook and pre-loading with FOAMed content (podcasts, vodcasts etc). The problem though had been where to carry it – the iPad mini JUST fits into a pocket on the flight suit. Stuffing it into a pack means you’re never likely to use it – it’ll be stored in the back of ambulance, tied down in flight or otherwise inaccessible.

How am I gonna keep my shit together on a cramped helicopter?
How am I gonna keep my shit together on a cramped helicopter?

Despite initial scepticism, I have been using Twitter for the past 18 months to connect with #FOAMed enthusiasts – it’s a great tool for signposting and sharing information from likeminded people around the world, some of whom I have met, some not. Retrieval clinician Natasha Burley (@skimightythings) put out a tweet of the GridIt system in use with Careflight, Queensland a few weeks ago…a sensible idea so good that I had to try it!

So for the past few shifts I have been experimenting with the GridIt system. This is basically a neoprene sleeve and folder for phones, phablets, tablets and PCs, with a series of interlocking bands forming a grid into which chargers, connectors etc can be placed. It’s marketed to power users who carry lots of kit. I find it quite useful for giving presentations as I can make sure I’ve got my projector controller, VGA/HDMI adaptors, power cords, audio cable and other sundries available when giving a talk off home ground.

The Grid It system from cocoon
The Grid It system from cocoon


 The question is as to whether it would ‘value add’ for the retrieval setting. I managed to snaffle an iPad Mini GridIt pouch (had to hunt for the MedSTAR red version on eBay) and experiment with it during a typical shift.

Dan Martin with GridIT
Retrieval Nurse Dan Martin with the Grid IT in our storeroom

I was pleasantly surprised. The neoprene pouch is easy to carry and non-slip despite the recent hot weather (temperatures in the 30s). The iPad Mini fits snugly in the pouch and is further protected by a fold over sleeve. Having the iPad Mini available at all times (rather like the President of the United States ‘football’ of nuclear access codes) meant that I was more inclined to actually USE the device for kit checks and SOPs, as well as afford the potential for mini-tutes on ultrasound and listening to podcasts from my FOAMed mates (eagerly awaiting Mark Wilson & co with neuro edition of RAGE podcast). Listening to content or refreshing knowledge is always possible on the outward leg of a mission, whether by road, rotary or fixed wing.

IPad Mini sits snugly in neoprene puch with GridIt on one side. A neoprene sleeve is folded over the entire assemblage, covering the syringes & iShiny from accidental knocks
IPad Mini sits snugly in neoprene puch with GridIt on one side. A neoprene sleeve is folded over the entire assemblage, covering the syringes & iShiny from accidental knocks

We carry our S8s on our person already, but the syringes and caps are kept in our kit, making it impossible to draw up drugs en route unless remember to get the large major drug/IV pack out before travel. By keeping a few syringes, saline and red caps plus vial access cannulae in the pouch, I found that could mix up basics (ketamine, fentanyl) at anytime using the kit on my person. Once pre-drawn, syringes were kept protected by the neoprene sleeve and readily available.

Grid it with predrawns

I did wonder how we would go in transit WITH a patient, especially in the crowded space of a helicopter. The photos probably don’t do it justice (lots of vibration!) but I found I could secure the GridIt system to the stretcher using the velcro cuffs – or just stuff the darn thing into a pocket if I was worried.

Depending on the aircraft and configuration with stretcher, I found could secure to either the side of the stretcher so that iPad and drugs were within easy reach (basically between legs if sitting side on to stretcher)…or secure to the head end where we already stash bag-valve-mask in a pouch.

The ability to reverse the neoprene sleeve and loop around the stretcher rail then secure with velcro worked well – but for added security one could easily add a carabiner.

On the outward bound (no patient) I used the GridIt to secure syringes and secured the entire package to stretcher rail by looping the neoprene sleeve around rail and velcroing. One could add a loop for carabiner easily.
On the return leg – iPad and drugs secured to stretcher side for easy access in flight
Hanging the iPad Mini and predrawn syringes off the head end of stretcher (head elevated in this picture) – means both FOAMed and DRUGS available immediately!

We already have a system of securing pre-drawn syringes (for bolus dosing) on a hoop system on our ventilator. Many missions don’t require a ventilator, just standard monitoring, so the options have usually been to stuff syringes into a pocket on flight suit.

Adding an iPad to the mix means pockets get full or tend to either stash in a pack bag (inaccessible) or just leave the thing behind… a shame as having an iPad available could value add to missions, I feel.

Combining the iPad Mini and syringes in one system seemed to work well. I am interested in other options available out there!

Spotted in the UK and tweeted by my mate Dr Alan Grayson (of the StEmlyns blog crew) - not sure this will catch on; nor is there space for iPad!
Spotted in the UK and tweeted out to the world by my mate Dr Alan Grayson (of the StEmlyns blog crew) – not sure this bandolier approach will catch on; nor is there space for an iPad!

And what else should we put on the ipad Mini?

The next question will be which apps and FOAMed content should be included on a tablet. MedSTAR has it’s own proprietary app for checklists and SOPs. My preference would be to add :

[ I am a big fan of the UK HEMS SOPs available online – http://www.uk-hems.co.uk/ukhemssops.html and the Sydney HEMS clinical governance and sim resources in particular – http://sydneyHEMS.com ]

Who knows? Perhaps in the future my mate Mark Wilson’s GoodSAMapp could be added to not just individual clinicians smartphones, but also to institutional devices – as it allows tracking of location and ‘push’ alerts integrated with comms CAD; potentially very useful in a MAJAX situation

GoodSAM app for smartphone (iOS and Android, Windows etc) - not just for first responder BLS, but also to track and push info to institutional members via central ambulance dispatch
GoodSAM app for smartphone (iOS and Android, Windows etc) – not just for first responder BLS, but also to track and push info to institutional members via central ambulance dispatch


Hey! If you are a Paramedic, Nurse, Doctor or Registered First Aider who can hold open an airway or do BLS, please take time to register with GoodSAMapp for Android or iOSIt’s FREE



CPD points for #FOAMed & SoMe?

Tapping into the collective wisdom of tacit knowledge sharing and asynchronous learning via the #FOAMed community has markedly changed the way I practice. A few years ago, I would jump through the necessary hoops of continuing professional development (CPD) or personal development programmes (PDP) with my College. To be honest, as a rural proceduralist, it was relatively easy to accrue points and meet the necessary number required each triennium (three year cycle).

But the reality is that these points were met by doing the minimum necessary standard ie attending a few of the alphabet courses like EMST/APLS/REST, attending an annual conference, perhaps attending a workshop or local educational session, usually delivered by a metrocentric specialist. Within a year or so I had accrued enough points for the three-yearly triennial cycle. I am sure that there was some learning at these events – but I was not being stretched. Which is kind of odd. It seems that the educational focus of the Colleges is more about training registrars, but not necessarily about ongoing training of Fellows, other than to ensure that a minimum standard is met.

So the involvement in the FOAMed world re-ignited my passion for learning … and for teaching. I wont re-hash the concept of FOAMed here – it’s well-described elsewhere – suffice it to say, it allows asynchronous leaning, tacit knowledge sharing amongst peers and is ideal for discussing mastery or finesse in the craft, rather than the minimum educational requirements or becoming a slave to protocols and guidelines which are not necessarily applicable to the individual patient in front of us (90 yos on statins anyone?).

I started off by reading blogs from fellow rural doctors…then dipping my toes into making a few tentative comments on hypothetical case discussions…then creating my own content to reflect on own activities and perhaps help educate others…then build on this via content creation, collation, curation and communication.

Dipping in and out of FOAMed is another mode of learning, useful for finesse, with ability to access the global medical community hive mind for information.

FOAMed – free, open access medical education – anywhere, anyplace, anytime

But there is a problem with FOAMed or indeed any learning that occurs via social media interactions – this form of learning is not recognised, despite the fact that it offers a more advanced and self-reflective adult learning style (in fact FOAMed moves one into understanding HOW to learn (the concept of heutagogy). Different media – video vodcasts, audio podcasts, links to reevant papers, online discussion fora and ability to interact both online and offline allow asynchronous learning. Moreover this learning is not constrained by geography – interactions occur with colleagues globally – and as if that wasn’t enough, traditional silos break down – I find myself discussing aspects of care with not just fellow rural proceduralists, but with specialists, with academics, with social workers, with paramedics, with students. It’s a true meritocracy.

There was some recent chatter on GPSDownUnder (a closed facebook community) about the concept of accruing CPD points for this sort of activity, with no real answers (although over 154 comments). Interestingly other online platforms (notably the UK’s online community of over 200,000 doctors, Doctors.Net.UK allows accumulation of points for engaging in online debate, and is recognised in the UK’s revalidation programme. I have no doubt that revalidation will, in some form, be imposed on us in Australia – and reflective practice is part of this.

Those who are already active in FOAMed are not just users of content, but are interested in creating it. It would be good to get points for this sort of activity. Of course the irony is that these people already have accrued sufficient points for the triennium and are engaged purely for the love of learning and desire to be ‘better’. To make this sort of learning attractive to others, it needs to have a demonstrable advantage over existing modes of learning. For me the hook is that FOAMed allows me to refine my practice through tacit knowledge sharing and develop finesse….to engage in ‘corridor conversations; with colleagues worldwide and allow me benefit from decades of experience to apply to the patient in front of me, not just blindly follow a guideline. it’s about art as well as science!


What better way to meet requirements than to seek true mastery and finesse in one’s craft, with reflection, by use FOAMed and SoMe?

So I was thrilled to be invited to a breakfast meeting with RACGP educational reps and fellow GP bloggers/twitterati, Drs Karen Price, Ewen McPhee & Tim Senior.

Dr Ewen McPhee, Dr Tim Senior. Dr Tim Leeuwenburg. Ms Helen Barry (RACGP) & Dr Karen Price [photo by Dr Marlene Pearce]
It is clear that having a College control content is contrary to the ethos of free-flowing and cutting edge FOAMed.

We decided that a useful framework for accreditation (ie : collection of points for CPD/PDP activities online) needed to embrace the following concepts

(i) define principles of what is/what is not relevant educational activity

At the minimum, recognition of an activity for points should require that the activity is relevant to practice (might be across domains of clinical, practice admin, ethical etc), requires a degree of interactivity and a degree of reflection

(ii) create a tool to log activity

People have talked about ‘endorsing’ websites or activities, or using loggers to demonstrate time spent in an activity. However as adult learners this is too constraining. there are existing templates (we use one in ACRRM for logging of clinical attachment activities) which would suffice.

Such a template should encompass

  • the nature of activity (eg: reading blog, listening to podcast) and the learning objectives thereof,
  • a comment on specific learning outcomes
  • encouraging comment (reflective practice) on how this is relevant to one’s practice and
  • the documentation of these, with supporting evidence if appropriate (eg: screenshot of comments page, link to content etc)

Having a form either online or easily downloadable would allow clinicians to document learning activities outwith the usual College program and apply for points.

Ultimately it is up to the user to define his/her learning and also to be able to defend their activity in case of audit. There is concern of ‘gaming’ the system – I would argue that this happens already, with many educational activities being low quality and gamed to some degree. Negative feedback on low quality educational activity is not always forthcoming, due to the inherent conflict of attendees not wanting to jeopardise their own points by feeding back that an event was crap! Better to accrue the points and move on…

(iii) signpost relevant content to target audience

Each College (ACRRM, RACGP) already has regular newsletters. Using a panel of SoMe and FOAMed enlightened primary care physicians, it would be very easy to collate a regular (fortnightly or monthly) round up of relevant and interesting FOAMed content – the EM crew at lifeinthefastlane.com have been doing this every week for a few years now via their LITFL review. this is a wonderful way to signpost content to clinicians, leading to more interactivity and acceleration of the learning paradigm.

Docere – to teach – innit?

So – there you have it. A proposal for recognition of online FOAMed learning for primary care physicians in Australasia. Start off with links to interesting FOAMed material, disseminated through the Colleges. As time goes on, encourage clinicians to accrue points via interaction in this space. And hopefully such interaction will create more connectivity and community, as well as more content creation.

It would be awesome if both ACRRM and RACGP got on board with this – as this is the space where true learning is occurring. Too often medical education is either about the basics required for Fellowship and the maintenance of a minimum standard, with most research focussed on GP training pathways or recruitment/retention.

I would argue that we should be working together on the finesse to achieve mastery…always seeking to be better.

What do YOU think?




Is the IO really dead?

I was unable to attend the annual Australian Trauma Society meeting this year (truth be told, my membership lapsed and I’ve been busy with other projects recently). But in these days of FOAMed and use of social media to connect, I was able to follow vicariously via the twitter feed from #Austrauma. One tweet, admittedly not direct from the Austrauma feed, but from one of it’s speakers – caught my eye.

Screen Shot 2014-10-05 at 1.31.42 pm

Now it’s hard to argue with Karim Brohi – if you’ve not met him, he’s the chap who kicked off perhaps one of the earliest ever FOAMed sites – the thoroughly excellent trauma.org site (which turns 20 years old in 2015!). He’s well-regarded as a trauma expert, international speaker and leading trauma researcher. He’s also a nice chap and interacts with others through the twittersphere – whether trauma guru, student, rural doc or paramedic. I reckon he’s a chap who believes in striving for quality improvement across the board – his words from smaccGOLD still resonate re : use of audit to improve systems and lead to innovation, such as implementation of REBOA “you have to sweep the floor, everyday

So I was surprised by this statement from Brohi regarding the demise of the IO. Use of IO has taken some time to percolate down; I remember as a junior reg (so maybe 10 years ago) being admonished for placing an IO in a shut down 14 year old s they were “only to be used in children 9 years and under”. Nowadays there is no age limit – and we’ve moved from the old fashioned Cooks IO device to alternative device, the use which is taught in APLS, ATLS and other entry-level courses. Heck, we’ve even (finally) got them into small rural hospitals here in Oz!

I think Karim was purely referring to the utility of IO in a tertiary level resus bay, where rapid administration of blood is needed – the need to use pressure to infuse can cause to cell lysis, negating any advantage.

So is the IO route really dead?

I think not. Imagine a patient entrapped. Access through the window allows access to the humeral head and placement of an IO to facilitate extrication via administration of agents such as ketamine. In a resus bay, placement of an IO allows early administration of fluid and drugs, for both analgesia & procedures such as RSI.


Sure there are other routes – intranasal, intramuscular, rectal….and I’ve even placed an IV in the corpora cavernosa once (well, it communicates with the vascular space – just don;t run an adrenaline infusion through a line placed in the willy)

Placement of a subclavian swan sheath or peripheral rapid infuser catheter is ideal if rapid administration of warmed fluids is needed. Indeed I think RICs should be available not just in resus, but anywhere where people bleed – theatre, labour ward and prehospital.

Here’s the infamous ‘AC/DC & Barry White rapid infuser mashup’, which Scott Weingart chose for inclusion in Roberts & Hedges Emergency Procedures in Emegrency Medicine  as a video demo of how to place a RIC…


We still teach venous cutdown on ATLS in the animal lab – although the last cutdown I saw was over a decade a go in a difficult ED resus, requiring attempts at both saphenous and brachiocephalic veins.

Options for IO devices?

There are a few devices out there. Access points include humeral head, proximal & distal tibia, ischial crest and sternum (the latter is for FAST-1 only, not EZ-IO or BIG).

IOs such as the EZ-IO reportedly allow rates of 125ml/min, with the intrasternal device (mostly used in military) quicker still. remember to WARM FLUIDS so as not to contribute to the lethal triad.

Lethal triad

YouTube always seem to have some videos of these devices being put in – I admit that I’ve had an EZ-IO put in, which I didn’t find at all painful (and I am a bit of a needlephobe). However having 10ml of saline pushed through the device hurt big time! Some recommend administration of 1-2 ml of lignocaine prior to running in fluid (remember to use a pressure bag or dedicated person using three-way tap). Still hurts like a MoFo though!

Old fashioned Cook IO needle – these are now mostly gathering dust in the corner of EDs or have been removed completely. They were the device that we trained with on APLS a decade ago. Sadly it was relatively easy to push through the bone – and into the palm of your hand if supportng the childs lower limb.

The Bone Injection Gun – a spring-loaded IO device, which is designed for ease of use. Our hospital purchased these (no consultation with clinicians) and I can report that the experience has been disappointing. despite training, we have had nurses sustain sharps injuries by deploying the wrong way around. Locums unfamiliar with the device have struggled. One of the major problems is that the recoil of the spring can be taken up by the hand-forearm unless wrist is “cocked and locked”. Of course there is no tactile feedback either.

Although much cheaper than the EZ-IO device, the fact that failure rate is both means that 2-3 may be used per insertion attempt (anecdotal data from local experience), I would avoid the BIG, and instead recommend…

The EZ-IO device – this is simple to use. Sadly the drills are crazy expensive, as are the needles – however they allow easy insertion, give tactile feedback and are the device with which most clinicians train, making them the sensible choice. I ended up doing a deal with the health department, whereby purchased my own drill for prehospital and ED use, with needles being supplied by the Health Department.

And lastly, the FAST-1 device – this is an intra-sternal device favoured by the military (which kind of makes sense in combat as victims limbs may be blown off)

You can read a review of these devices HERE

Intraosseous Devices for Intravascular Access in Adult Trauma Patients Day M.W. (2011) Crit Care Nursing 2011 31 : 76-90 doi: 10.4037/ccn2011615 

“It’s blood they bleed, so it’s blood they need”


For now, I will be keeping my EZ-IO handy – I appreciate it’s not brilliant for rapid administration of fluids inc blood, but the ease of use and ability to rapidly administer analgesia or sedation/RSI drugs makes it a useful tool in the armamentarium…

…and if all else fails, there’s always a 14G needle and a strong arm to gain IO access!






Graduate Paramedics – In Safe Hands

I never used to have much to do with paramedics as a junior doctor. It was only when working in the ED as a registrar that I was exposed to them…probably a good 3-4 years into my postgraduate medical career. Even then, I had little idea of the challenges they faced, despite being in the same business of managing trauma, critical illness. But of course with the usual pressures in ED (access block, running at 120% capacity, begging for appropriate consults and dealing with all the usual stresses of staffing and supervision) it was easy to just bemoan the fact that patients were dropped off covered in gravel from the roadside and possibly some time after the incident.

In short, as an ED reg starting off, I had little idea of the challenges posed by the prehospital paramedics. And it was easy to criticise. If that was my mindset, just think of that of the rest of the hospital!  Nothing could be further from the truth. Fastwind forward a decade. I’ve spent a lot of time in medical education, instructing (and directing) on the international ‘advanced trauma life support’ aka ATLS (EMST in Australasia). In fact the full name of this course is “ATLS Course for Doctors” – it remains medico-centric and is a product of the College of Surgeons it is no secret that I am a critic of this course- it fulfils a need for entry-level, but doesn’t really deliver modern trauma care, hence the proliferation of other course such as ATACC and ETMcourse.

The usual stereotypes of (shudder) just ambulance drivers no doubt predominate in some medics mind when I trained … and I suspect this attitude still exists, as some of my paramedic mates refer to themselves (self-deprecatingly) as ‘just an ambulance driver’. So along my postgraduate career and in time as a medical educator, I have tried really hard to do the following :

  • to understand and explain to doctors who I train about the valuable skills of paramedics/prehospital
  • to seek to break down traditional silos between different providers, such as paramedics and medics
  • to use simulation training to improve delivery of care in resus

My mission continues – part of the reason I am rotating through medSTAR is to pick up pearls from prehospital care, simulation and standardisation of training, as well as case audit and governance. Even as a seasoned doctor, I make an effort to go on other courses relevant to resus – some of which are geared specifically towards the prehospital environment (eg; STAR). But it is still rare for medics to cross train with paramedics and see how they do it.

Enter the Sim Environment…,

Restricted area

So I was delighted to be offered the chance to attend some of the sim training for graduate paramedics commencing their internship. This program is an intense three week course of lectures and scenario testing for the intern intake, designed to help equip term before “hitting the road”.

I was only able to make it for one day – but can report that I was blown away with both the quality of simulation delivered AND the clinical skills of the paramedic interns. My host was former nurse and current paramedic educator, Michael Borrowdale.


Michael proudly showed me around the SA ambulance training facility (refurbished office spaces) which were cleverly kitted out on a shoestring budget to mimic indoor environments including patient homes, nursing home, resus room and crew room/stock cupboard. Furniture was sourced from donations and clever use of curtains to change wall appearance allowed the same room to function as a bedroom or a resus, bay, a bathroom or a lounge room. Cheap video cameras from DickSmithElectronics allowed recording of the scenarios to linked PC, for under $100


Pre-painted furniture on the back wall can be concealed by a curtain printed with resus room paraphrenalia, rapidly converting the room format


Attention to the little details adds to the fidelity of simulation – having webster packs, ID cards and the like adds valuable clinical information (organ donor, medications). And for immersive sim, use of sight, sounds, and even smell contributes hugely.

Photo ID


Live actor, realistic faeces, overpowering smell from ‘liquid ass’ spray creates realistic immersive sim … in a cramped bathroom space

I watched four different sims, each run in ‘real time’, requiring the candidates to manage the condition from arrival to disposition, with varying levels of complexity. Use of a mix of live patients and mannikins, along with students role-playing relatives, nursing staff or police officers added to the realism and encouraged skills in scene management and situational awareness.

I was impressed that candidates had to manage the scenario from arrival and initial assessment, maintaining communications with HQ, instituting immediate management, calling for backup, dealing with distressed relatives, environmental concerns, extricating the patient, dealing with unexpected crises (sudden desaturation), loading patient, transporting via ambulance and handover to ED.

Debriefing – I am not a fan of Pendelton’s ‘shit sandwich’ approach, preferring instead the Plus/delta approach (what went well?, what would you change?).The SHARP tool seems reasonable too…although candidates tend to focus on what went badly when asked “How did it go?”

Each scenario ran for about 30-45 minutes and was expertly debriefed by experienced facilitators with plenty of roadcraft experience. Crews were split and sim continued even after patient departed, with remaining crew having to clean up, deal with relatives/media/police and both teams write up case cards.


"Commotio cordis" paediatric VF arrest - unfortunate incident with a cricket ball
“Commotio cordis” paediatric VF arrest – unfortunate incident with a cricket ball
Standard ACLS in the park ...
Standard ACLS in the park …
#NOF, hypothermia and melena on the bathroom floor
#NOF, hypothermia and melena on the bathroom floor
Paediatric suicide attempt - deliberate jump from 10m, have to deal with distraught mother before can begin to assess patient
Paediatric suicide attempt – deliberate jump from 10m, have to deal with distraught mother before can begin to assess patient

The realistic prehospital scenarios, carrying a significant cognitive load  in not just clinical management but scene awareness lead to a degree of stress inoculation.

SAPOL rellatives
Involvement of patient relatives and outside agencies such as police, mean that prehospital workers have to develop excellent situational awareness and scene management, on top of clinical management priorities

Despite being involved in running trauma sims via ATLS/EMST, running my own ‘guerilla sim’ and attending other courses in resus/prehospital care here in SA and interstate, I can say that I have NEVER seen such a high level of immersive simulation. Sight, smell, sound and sheer cognitive overload from various players (distraught relatives, police, press, carers and assorted players created a level of sim I’ve never experienced before)

Throughout this, the paramedic interns displayed effective clinical skills and excellent crisis resource management.

“To put it bluntly, I have never seen this level of immersive simulation in ANY of my medical career, despite running and attending sessions focussing on resus training. Nor have I been privileged to witness the level of clinical skill displayed by the paramedic interns at such a junior level”


After witnessing this sim training, I am fully confident in the skills of the paramedic interns – as they progress through the ranks, skills will be further fine-honed. I hope that other prehospital workers, whether career crews in metro or volunteer crews in rural, will be able to undertake the same exposure of sim training.

I could not help but reflect that I wish that doctors had access to the same level of immersive sim – in fact, one could argue that even established senior doctors would benefit from participating in such well-organised, immersive and stressful simulations – rather than the usual token ‘stop-start’ sim. This applies whether preparing for prehospital work or for ongoing training in hospital-based work.

Recommendations for the future?

People may not be aware, but the number of graduate paramedics churning out of university each year vastly exceeds the number of available spaces. Unemployment is a real possibility for these graduates. Even the interns who do get a spot are only secure for a year – they are not guaranteed a longterm position and many seek work interstate, overseas or in other industries (mining, oil rigs etc). Meanwhile rural areas are mostly dependent on (unpaid) volunteers, trained to a Cert IV level but lacking skills such as cannulation etc. Not an easy balance between affordability, case load and number of graduates to positions.

I don;t have an answer for this!

But if we are serious about clinical training, I think we need to get away from tokenistic, task-trainer focussed sim or ‘tick box’ annual ACLS updates, moving instead towards highly immersive sim delivered in real time, using realistic scenarios backed up by actors, and use usual equipment. An ideal training facility would be co-located with emergency services, allow cross-training with other agencies (paramedics, medics, retrieval, fire service, SES etc). Ability to deliver sim to outlying sites would be useful.

But ultimately, Michael Borrowdale and colleagues prove that one can run highly effective, fully immersive simulation on a shoestring budget, with fully realistic sound, smell, touch and the cognitive stressors of scene management including dealing with highly distressed relatives, environmental concerns (rain, cold, sun) and from scene arrival to patient delivery.




Review – Auckland HEMS app

My friends over at Auckland HEMS have just released an app for both iOS and Android (see link at “test pilots wanted – HEMS app goes live“). I was lucky enough to score a pre-release download and play with it over the past week. It’s now been released live and available to all for feedback.

I’ve been a bit of a fan of the Auckland HEMS site – along with a few other retrieval services, they’ve made a commitment to having a web-presence (good for promotion, recruitment and also promoting information sharing via feedback). Their sim resource section is one I am watching closely, as there is great scope to share sim scenarios using the in-built function of the online community functionality of the iSimulate package

Other services, notably the collective UK HEMS, Sydney HEMS, RFDS have lead the way in sharing some of their resources in open-access format, to help others to learn and develop own procedures, as below :

Putting procedures and information up on the web is one thing…but the ultimate functionality for a retrievalist would be to have all of this information available even without immediate web access. Given the space constraints of a flight suit, and the ubiquity (and of course practicality) of a smartphone, it makes sense to develop retrieval apps that can be used on the primary communication device (iOS or Android phone).

Having a smartphone allows access to not just phone calls, but messaging, web access (if in range), ability to view documents, access apps etc. Smart app developers may also take advanatage of in-built functions such as torch/vibrate/sounds to enable visual, haptic & audio prompts. Inter-app integration for access to weather and map/GPS functions is achieveable. And the new iPhone reportedly has a barometer…opening the possibility of a retrieval app that helps flight planning and working out O2 requirements.

It’s probably worth reflecting on what the ideal retrieval app would allow a user to do. My opinion is that the ultimate app would allow

  • cross-platform functionality (iOS, Android) and usable on both phone and tablet screens
  • ease of use in sunlight and at night, with clear easy to navigate buttons
  • large buttons/tab/checkboxes, so that can be used even when wearing gloves
  • capability to record day-to-day activities within a service, eg: daily kit checks, viewing of approved rosters, navigation to useful contact numbers. Daily checklists should be exportable for audit purposes.
  • ability to record case details including case times (from activation through arrival/depart scene, dropoff at destination and return-to0base for audit purposes), record mode of transport, locations, patient demographics and coding of disease, with ability to easily export such data to databases such as Air Maestro or common office-based spreadsheets (Excel, Numbers), thus avoiding the duplication of data entry across multiple sources (ie case notes-apps-database). Naturally such recording should be password protected and HIPAA compliant.
  • ability to record scene photos or videos, protected as above, to communicate scene situation (useful particularly in a major incident) as well as to facilitate audit and training
  • integration with maps functionality, with ability to record GPS points and drop pins on location
  • access to marine & weather info
  • use of barometer function on newer smartphones for use in-flight
  • access to service-based standard operating procedures (SOPs), preferably with documents in an interactive iBook-type format to optimise viewability, rather than the difficulties of navigating PDFs on a small smartphone screen
  • access to service-approved short videos demonstrating procedures for training
  • access to relevant FOAMed links inc available podcasts/vodcasts (on the outward leg, especially via fixed wing in rural Australia, it would be hard to go wrong with the audio & video content from intensivecarenetwork.com, smacc.net.au, emcrit.org, prehopsitalmed.com etc)
  • ability to log any issues eg: equipment failure or hot debrief for the team
  • ability to record all data and export as appropriate to both service audit and governance needs, as well as record cases/procedures for clinicians requiring for logbook purposes
  • app available for moderate fee, and sharing of content between services where appropriate ie : where benefits of open-access information offer advantages (the obvious example being developing standardisation of SOPs, equipment between a retrieval service and the rural hospitals it services eg: infusion regimens etc)

So far no such app exists…but there have been some rapid developments in this area in recent times. The Auckland HEMS app is interesting, in that the authors (Robert Gooch, Chris Denny under IT tutelage of Scott Orman) have used the iBuildapp web-based service to create the content, thus saving a huge investment of $$$ on an app developer. As they say “if you can create a powerpoint presentation, you can create an app”. What I like is the commitment to evolve the app and update in real time.

The app starts with a simple splashscreen, then once loaded moves to a very easy to navigate interface, reminiscent of the UKHEMS SOP database web-interface.

Auckland HEMS app is loading…

The initial screen has large, friendly coloured buttons that are easy to select even when wearing gloves, allowing access to each of :

  • emergency checklists
  • normal operations checklists
  • shift duties
  • major incident prompts (METHANE, NATO phonetic alphabet etc)
  • resources (including web links to FOAMed)
  • calendar
  • SOPs (standard operating procedures)
  • comms
Easy navigation to selected content

Drilling down, the content is easily displayed and large – this is a plus, as small text is both hard to read and hard to select (especially in gloves). However I was disappointed to see that checklists did not actually allow ‘checking’. This is a shame – for a daily kit check, ability to select actions completed and then archive the actions (eg: CSV export via email) would be useful.

Ventilated patient – accidental disconnect checklist

For a crisis checklist, the ability to check items or even build in audio-haptic-visual alerts using smartphone alarm-vibrate-torch functions can be very useful in a crisis, especially when time critical. The obvious example is that of RSI – and for a masterclass in how a checklist can be made part of workflow, see the excellent iRSI app, reviewed elsewhere.


The ‘hot debrief’ function accessed from the bottom navigation file was useful – easy to access wherever you are in the app, this allows quick notation of mission details such as nature of mission, team members, timings and also commentary on any issues with kit, at the hospital or in transport. Again, ability to capture this data and export it to a spreadsheet for audit or training purposes would be invaluable.

photo 2

photo 1

I was pleased to see the inclusion of some FOAMed material, including Scott’s cric-con concept for emergency surgical airway. I couldn’t find mention of the Vortex approach, but as time goes on I think this and other resources will be incorporated both into the app and into common practice. Links to relevant sites are included…





Integration of marine and weather bulletins was a nice touch…



…along with calendar and contact info for operational purposes



Ultimately it is hard to demonstrate all functions with screenshots. My advice – get in quick, download the app and give your feedback. It is available from http://aucklandhems.com/2014/09/21/test-pilots-wanted-auckland-hems-app-goes-live/

I am fully confident of rapid improvements with subsequent iterations. To my mind, the scope for making an open-access app with broad-brush functionality according to the list above is achievable. The question, of course, is how much content should remain in-house (mindful of the considerable investment in time, money and intellectual copyright of content) and how much can usefully be shared.

Whether making one’s SOPs and resources open access is worth it remains unanswered. For blokes like me, trying to do best for rural patients, there are clear advantages in keeping up-to-date with current practice and especially in aiming to use the same kit and infusion regimens as the retrieval service. I appreciate however that there may be concerns in making one’s protocols available for all to share.

For the present, I am grateful for the availability of online resources such as those from Emergency Medical Retrieval Scotland, SydneyHEMS and UKHEMS

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EMRS includes a ‘meet the team’ with bios of registrars and regular staff as well s access to clinical, equipment & organisational SOPs
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Sydney HEMS website is a rich repository of procedures, sim, clinical governance, review articles, videos and FOAMed links. These guys know how to make connectivity work for them!
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UKHEMS.co.uk site offers access to SOPs, Emergency Drills and downloadable crash cards (useful in ED, ICU too)