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AVME721 Clinical Care in the Air

Relating physiology, pathology and flight; general clinical concerns; cardiovascular patients; orthopaedic and trauma patients; burn patients; obstetric patients; aeromedical transport of children; miscellaneous conditions of concern; critical care in the air.

This practical paper details the clinical and operational aspects of the transfer of critically ill patients by air.

Paper title Clinical Care in the Air
Paper code AVME721
Subject Aviation Medicine
EFTS 0.25
Points 30 points
Teaching period Not offered in 2023 (Distance learning)
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $3,018.75
International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.

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Limited to
MAvMed, MHealSc, PGDipAeroRT, PGDipHealSc

Healthcare professionals currently employed, or interested in work, in the aviation medicine industry.

If you have not already done so, please contact the department for course advice before selecting your programme,

Teaching staff

Gareth Richards

Paper Structure
Additional paper for the Postgraduate Diploma in Aeromedical Retrieval and Transport. Part of the Master of Aviation Medicine (MAvMed) and Master of Health Sciences endorsed in Aeromedical Retrieval and Transport (MHealSc(AeroRT).
Teaching Arrangements

This is a fully distance-taught paper and is taught in even years in the first semester.

Textbooks are not required for this paper.
Course outline

This paper introduces general concepts of clinical care in flight and looks specifically at clinical conditions that are particularly challenging to the aeromedical practitioner. The starting point for the paper is the assumption of a solid background of clinical skills in some of the appropriate specialty areas (emergency medicine, anaesthetics, intensive care, and general practice).

Within the constraints imposed by a new specialty (aeromedical retrieval) that lacks a clear evidence base for much of its work, this paper provides an overview of the clinical aspects of aeromedical retrieval and transportation for both generalist and specialist air ambulance practitioners. Clinical best practice is a key component of efficacious patient transport, not least because aeromedical practitioners tend to work alone and usually unsupported whilst in transit. In essence, this can be remote medicine taken to its extreme. There may be few occasions so lonely as for the flight medical crew attending to a life-threatening emergency in an aircraft flying at 36,000 ft and placed some hours from the nearest sensible diversion.

Hence, this paper gives a resumé of the physiological consequences of patient movement with particular reference to the flight environment taught in AVME718 and goes on to relate these issues to normal health and illness. It examines disease states by system and clinical speciality, highlighting clinical concerns in the aeromedical situation, enabling the student to use this newly acquired clinical and logistic knowledge in planning and executing the safe management of patients being transported by air.

Technical procedural skills are obviously not something that can be taught by distance learning and it should be noted that this paper is not a substitute for clinical experience and apprenticeship. The focus is on the academic aspects of clinical care.

Finally, certain specialist aeromedical topics are not addressed in this paper, namely the aeromedical al retrieval of :

  • neonates
  • burns
  • highly infectious patients
  • bariatric patients
  • ECMO patients

These are covered as part of the Master of Aeromedical retrieval paper AVME803.

Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Global perspective, Interdisciplinary perspective, Lifelong learning, Communication, Critical thinking, Cultural understanding, Ethics, Environmental literacy, Information literacy, Research, Self-motivation, Teamwork, global perspective, lifelong learning, scholarship, communication, critical thinking, self-motivation, teamwork.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes

Graduates of the paper will be able to:

  1. Apply their knowledge of the effects of the aeromedical environment on patient physiology, and on a variety of clinical pathologies, in order to ​anticipate the potential impacts on patient care during the aeromedical transfer.
  2. Recommend specific clinical actions and modifications to clinical care to address the potential impacts of the aeromedical environment, substantiating their recommendations by reference to the evidence in the literature.
  3. Recommend the appropriate utilisation of aeromedical retrieval in the broader patient transport context for a variety of clinical pathologies, substantiating their recommendations by reference to the evidence in the literature.

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Not offered in 2023

Teaching method
This paper is taught through Distance Learning
Learning management system