ShandsCair team uses $10K goggles to improve patient safety
$10,000 night vision goggles expected to improve patient safety for the helicopter program
Published: Sunday, January 23, 2011 at 9:11 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 23, 2011 at 9:11 p.m.
The ShandsCair medical team has a new weapon in its arsenal, aimed at increasing patient safety.
ShandsCair by the numbers
658: patients transported by helicopter in 2010.
60%: were transported from the scene (394).
264: were transported between medical facilities.
229: flights (34.8%) were made between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m.
This week, the helicopter flight team began using night vision goggles to improve flight capability at night.
As lead pilot Mark Womack explains, the $10,000 goggles give him 20/25 vision in low visibility, compared with 20/200 without them.
When you're landing a helicopter in an unfamiliar landing zone close to the scene of an accident, prepared to load a critically injured patient, the goggles can make a critical difference.
"They improve our ability to go into dimly lit landing zones, such as a field or pasture, and allow us to see obstructions like power lines that we'd miss with the naked eye," he said.
The helicopter is staffed by a pilot, flight nurse and paramedic, and all of the crew members have been outfitted with the goggles, manufactured by ITT Night Vision and Imaging.
A lightweight binocular is mounted to a flight helmet and powered by a low-voltage battery pack. Complex electronics intensify any light to create a visible image.
ShandsCair is the fifth EMS helicopter program in Florida to be FAA-certified to use night vision goggles.
The Federal Aviation Administration doesn't require the use of night vision goggles, but the National Transportation Safety Board recommends their use.
More than one-third of the ShandsCair helicopter's flights last year were made between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m.
Bad weather still might ground the helicopter, Womack said, but the night vision goggles, which magnify even the smallest amount of existing light 10,000 times, give the crew the ability to see better and more clearly at night.
The helicopter, operated for ShandsCair by Air Methods Corporation, is part of a critical care transport system that also includes a jet and four specially equipped ambulances.
ShandsCair has approximately 40 staff members, including flight nurses, flight paramedics, respiratory therapists and communication specialists/transporters.
Additionally, there are four pilots and two mechanics.
In all, ShandsCair provided 1,883 ground and air emergency transports last year, according to Michelle Ziglar, director of trauma and aeromedical services at Shands UF.
"The way I look at it, we've now got an extra tool in our belts," Womack said.