Ambulance Equipment: Where And What

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An ambulance is a vehicle used to transport patients to and from medical facilities, and to provide out-of-hospital medical care during the journey. The inside of an ambulance is like a mini hospital on wheels, with a range of medical equipment and supplies designed to prolong and protect the lives of patients.

The rear door of an ambulance opens to reveal a compact, functional interior. Despite the restricted space, ambulances are packed with lifesaving medical equipment, including ventilators, medications, and specialised equipment such as defibrillators. In the centre is a secure stretcher, used to transport patients, with medical devices such as ECG machines and bag valve masks within arm's reach of the paramedic.

Ambulances also carry basic but important items such as blood pressure gauges, stethoscopes, thermometers, medical tape, flashlights, and blankets. They are designed for function and preparedness, with every piece of equipment having a designated spot to ensure paramedics can locate and use them efficiently.

Characteristics Values
Purpose To transport patients to treatment facilities, such as hospitals, and provide out-of-hospital medical care during the transport.
Vehicle Types Vans, pickup trucks, motorcycles, buses, limousines, aircraft, boats, etc.
Design Compact and functional interior with storage space for medical equipment and supplies.
Equipment Ventilators, ECG machine, defibrillator, oxygen supply, bag valve masks, blood pressure monitor, basic life support (BLS) kit, syringes, bandages, etc.
Communication Devices Radios, onboard computers, mobile data terminals (MDTs)
Patient Transport Stretchers, wheelchairs, track chairs for stairs
Monitoring Equipment Thermometers, blood pressure machines, haemoglucometer, observation kits
First Aid Kit Bandages, drips, medication, syringes, sterile wipes, gloves, etc.

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Basic medical supplies: bandages, syringes, sterile wipes, needles, gloves

Basic medical supplies are essential to the life-saving work of paramedics, who respond to emergencies, deliver immediate care to patients, and transport them to the hospital. These supplies are stored in ambulances, which are like mini-hospitals on wheels, bringing medical delivery to the patient.

The basic medical supplies found in an ambulance include bandages, syringes, sterile wipes, needles, and gloves. These are typically located on a compact board or in a jump bag, which is a bag used to carry medical supplies and equipment. The jump bag is often the first thing paramedics grab when they arrive at the scene of an emergency.

Bandages are used to dress wounds and help stop bleeding. Syringes are used to administer medications and treatments, such as anti-seizure medication or adrenaline. Sterile wipes are used to clean wounds and maintain a sterile environment. Needles are used for procedures such as cannulation, which allows paramedics to administer certain drugs. Gloves are worn by paramedics to protect themselves and the patient from infection and to maintain a sterile environment.

These basic medical supplies are crucial in providing initial care and stabilisation to patients before they can be transported to a hospital for further treatment. The location of these supplies in a designated spot within the ambulance ensures that paramedics can quickly access and utilise them efficiently, saving valuable time in emergency situations.

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Oxygen masks and cylinders

Oxygen cylinders are an important component of the ambulance's equipment. Cylinders come in different sizes, with larger ones holding more oxygen and lasting longer. For example, a Size D cylinder holds 350 litres of oxygen and lasts about 30 minutes at a common flow rate, while a Size E cylinder holds 625 litres and can last for an hour. Ambulances are also equipped with ventilators, which are attached to oxygen cylinders to help patients breathe and enable paramedics to adjust their breathing rate and depth.

Oxygen masks are used in conjunction with cylinders to deliver oxygen to patients. The type of mask used depends on the patient's condition and the amount of oxygen required. Nasal cannulas, for example, are used for patients who can benefit from oxygen administration but cannot tolerate a non-rebreather mask. Non-rebreather masks, on the other hand, are used to deliver high-flow oxygen to patients with critically low SPO2 levels. These masks have a bag that inflates to ensure the patient receives enough oxygen before each breath.

Oxygen therapy is a simple yet effective intervention that can stabilise a wide range of medical complaints. It is crucial for paramedics to be comfortable with different types of oxygen cylinders and masks and their operation to provide effective emergency care.

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Wheelchairs and stretchers

Wheelchairs

Wheelchairs are used to assist patients with general mobility. A regular wheelchair can be strapped into an ambulance, and a track chair can be used to navigate stairs.

Stretchers

Stretchers are used to move patients who require medical care and are primarily used in acute out-of-hospital care situations. There are several types of stretchers, including:

  • Simple stretchers: These are lightweight and portable, made of canvas or synthetic material suspended between two poles or a tubular aluminium frame.
  • Folding stretchers: Similar to simple stretchers but with hinges that allow them to collapse into a more compact form for storage.
  • Roberson orthopedic stretchers: Used for lifting patients, e.g. from the ground onto an ambulance stretcher. The two ends can be detached, allowing the stretcher to be placed under the patient, then fastened together.
  • Litters: Designed for use in confined spaces, on slopes, or in wooded terrain. The person is strapped into the basket, which has raised sides and a removable head/torso cover for protection.
  • WauK boards: Designed for use in small spaces. The patient is secured to the board with straps and can be moved by one person.
  • Neil Robertson stretchers: Designed for transporting injured individuals through narrow and confined spaces, such as steep ladders and small hatchways.
  • Flexible stretchers: Often supported longitudinally by wooden or plastic planks. They are primarily used to move patients through confined spaces or to lift obese patients.

Loading Systems

There are three main ambulance stretcher loading systems:

  • Easi-loader: This system uses stretchers with retracting legs operated by a system of levers.
  • Ramp/winch: Stretchers are pulled or mechanically towed into the ambulance up a slope.
  • Tail lift: A moving platform lifts the stretcher until it is level with the ambulance floor.

The tail lift system is considered the safest option, although it is slower and more complex to operate than the other systems.

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Monitoring equipment: thermometers, blood pressure machines, blood sugar level monitors

Monitoring equipment is an essential part of an ambulance's inventory. It helps paramedics make informed decisions about patient care and treatment. Here is some detailed information about the monitoring equipment typically found in an ambulance:

Thermometers

Thermometers are crucial for measuring a patient's body temperature, especially in cases of hypothermia. Accurate temperature readings can guide resuscitation algorithms and the choice of target hospital for the patient. Most ambulances carry infrared-based ear thermometers, infrared-based surface thermometers, or conventional medical thermometers. However, only a small percentage of thermometers in ambulances are capable of measuring core body temperature accurately. This can be a challenge, especially in cold environments, as most thermometers are not designed to operate in low temperatures.

Blood Pressure Machines

Blood pressure machines, also known as sphygmomanometers, are used to measure a patient's blood pressure. This vital sign provides information about the patient's cardiovascular health and can help diagnose conditions like hypertension. Ambulatory blood pressure monitoring involves continuous measurement over 24 hours, both while the patient is awake and asleep, to gather more accurate data. This method can help confirm a hypertension diagnosis, guide treatment, and identify how blood pressure changes throughout the day and with different activities.

Blood Sugar Level Monitors

Blood sugar level monitors, also known as haemoglucometers or glucose meters, are essential for managing diabetes and checking blood glucose levels. They are particularly important for patients with type 1 diabetes or those who take insulin. These monitors use a small drop of blood placed on a disposable strip to provide a quick reading of blood glucose levels. This information guides paramedics in stabilising the patient's condition and administering the appropriate medication.

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First aid kit

A basic first aid kit should contain the following:

  • Crepe ('conforming' or elastic) bandages of varying widths
  • Non-adhesive (non-stick) dressings of varying sizes
  • Disposable gloves (medium and large), preferably made of non-latex material due to latex allergies
  • Plastic bags of varying sizes
  • Adhesive tape (2.5 cm wide – preferably a permeable tape such as Micropore)
  • Resuscitation mask or face shield

Other useful items to include are:

  • Medium and large combine dressing pads
  • Adhesive dressing strips (bandaids)
  • Medium gauze dressing
  • Sterile tubes of saline solution
  • Scissors
  • Tweezers
  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Oral antihistamines for allergic reactions
  • Oral painkillers such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen
  • Hydrocortisone cream
  • Instant cold packs
  • Safety pins
  • Triangular bandages
  • Gauze roller bandages
  • Absorbent compress dressings
  • Breathing barrier with a one-way valve
  • Oral thermometer

Frequently asked questions

An ambulance is a mini-hospital on wheels, designed to prolong and protect the lives of patients. It is stocked with lifesaving medical equipment, including ventilators, medicine, a defibrillator, ECG machine, oxygen supply, bag valve masks, blood pressure monitor, syringes, bandages, and more. It also has communication devices to maintain contact with the hospital.

The equipment is located within arm's reach of a paramedic. The stretcher is in the centre of the ambulance, with medical devices such as the ECG machine and bag valve mask located adjacently. The oxygen supply is also within easy reach. Syringes, bandages, and other essential supplies are located on a compact board nearby.

The driver's area is separate from the patient compartment, which houses the medical equipment. The storage compartments are also separate, carrying extra supplies.

The size of an ambulance's interior varies, but they are designed to efficiently utilise limited space. There is room for the patient, one or two paramedics, and all the necessary medical equipment.

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