Simulation of a critical care scenario in a high-fidelity helicopter flight simulator really can provide a realistic helicopter transport experience and create physiological and psychological stress for participants, according to an article published on the Air Medical Journal website on 30 March.
The authors, from MetroHealth System and the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing in Cleveland, Ohio, US, conducted a study in order to determine if a helicopter flight simulator provides a useful educational platform by creating experiences similar to those encountered by actual flight nurses. Flight nurses and other participants completed a simulated emergency scenario in a flight simulator and their levels of physiological and psychological stress were measured using heart rate and perceived stress scores. This was followed by a questionnaire to assess the realism of the flight simulator.
The subjects reported that the overall experience in the flight simulator was comparable with a real helicopter, said the authors: “Sounds, communications, vibrations, and movements in the simulator most approximated those of a real-life helicopter environment. Perceived stress levels of all participants increased significantly from 27 (on a 0-to-100 scale) before simulation to 51 at the peak of the simulation and declined thereafter to 28.” There were no significant differences in perceived stress levels between flight nurses and non-flight nurses before, during, or after simulation. The flight nurses’ heart rates increased significantly from 77 before simulation to 100 at the peak of the simulation and declined thereafter to 72.
According to the researchers, the study results suggest that simulation of a critical care scenario in a high-fidelity helicopter flight simulator can provide a realistic helicopter transport experience and create physiological and psychological stress for participants. Flight nurses require extensive and ongoing training to perform their jobs adequately, they said, adding that standard methods to prepare flight nurses are expensive and time-consuming, partially because of the low flight volume and relatively few critical experiences encountered during orientation. While the HEMS industry relies heavily on actual patient transports to develop flight nurse competency within the helicopter environment, simulation is increasingly prevalent, they said. The authors continued: “Although the impact of simulation on patient-oriented outcomes is unknown, most participants report increased confidence and feeling better prepared for actual clinical practice after simulation training.”