Volume 12 Issue 3

Non-traumatic chest pain: pericarditis

Pericarditis is an inflammation of the two layers of pericardium, the thin, sac-like membrane that surrounds the heart. Its causes are thought to be viral, fungal or bacterial. Pericarditis may also present as a result of a myocardial infarction. Its signs and symptoms include chest pain, which may radiate to the arm and jaw and pericardial friction rub (a scratching or creaking sound produced by the layers of the pericardium rubbing over each other) on auscultation of heart sounds. The diagnosis of straightforward pericarditis may be within the scope of practice of the emergency care practitioner. It should be possible for an emergency care practitioner to reach a working diagnosis and to initiate a treatment regimen, which would predominantly consist of providing analgesia to make the patient more comfortable.

Triage system performance: consistency and accuracy in the emergency centre

Triage systems have evolved over recent times with the use of tiered acuity to achieve a balance between patient need and resource availability. Triage is a way to sort patients based on acuity, irrespective of the setting, and whether by telephone, in the prehospital environment or in hospital. The growth of the paramedic profession means that paramedics are now working in emergency centres and having to contend with the concept of triage in this setting. The nature of emergency centres and the variety of patient presentations makes it nearly impossible to have a perfect system that is both consistent and accurate. Paramedics, as decision makers, should understand the underlying concepts of what makes a triage system perform well so best practice can be adopted with specific goals in mind. There is a patient-centred focus to do the most for the most at any given time and to ensure that resources are aligned with the needs of patients. It is vital to monitor a triage system's performance so that improvements or adjustments can be made in response to patient population needs over time. This commentary focuses on the main principles of triage system performance measures and what factors should be taken into consideration during clinical practice. Highlighting the concepts of triage reliability, validity and decision-making should help paramedics to understand the importance of conscious decision-making practice.

Theory into practice

After having experienced his first placement and completed his first OSCE over the span of only a few months, Samuel Parry reflects on the value of his first year so far and how it is helping him to weave theory into practice in a way that is unique to student life

Effective clinical feedback provision to ambulance clinicians: a literature review

Background Clinical feedback provision to health professionals is advocated to benefit both clinical development and work engagement. Aim This literature review aims to develop recommendations for effective clinical feedback provision by examining mechanisms that exist specifically for ambulance clinicians. Method: A systematic search of contemporary literature identified 15 research papers and four articles, which were included for review and narrative synthesis. Findings The initial identification of practice that requires improvement, together with an understanding of the practitioners' baseline attitudes, is important. While minimising resource demands will improve sustainability, repeated interaction with clinicians will benefit effectiveness. Provision should be balanced and timely, and who delivers feedback is significant. Clinical outcome feedback not restricted to specific conditions requires further consideration of which incidents will initiate feedback and what information will be supplied. Conclusion Feedback has been shown to improve clinical performance but demonstrating subsequent benefits to patient outcomes has proved more difficult.

Point-of-care testing by paramedics using a portable laboratory: an evaluation

Use of point-of-care testing (POCT) equipment by paramedics for triage may reduce unnecessary attendance in emergency departments and inconvenience to patients. A hospital pathology service and an ambulance trust wanted a system for safe and effective use of diagnostic devices by paramedics at the patient bedside. A suite of POCT devices to perform an expanded repertoire of pathology tests was provided, along with technology for electronic data capture, temperature control and monitoring, in a specially designed kit bag—the Labkit. Following a proof-of-concept phase, three Labkit bags were deployed as a pilot in rapid response vehicles and used by specialist paramedics in urgent and emergency care who had been trained in their use. The paramedics used the bag in 25% of patient interactions, typically three times every 24 hours. Having POCT results available at the time of paramedic assessment reduced conveyance to the emergency department by 21%. There was also a 10% rise in admission of patients where pathology results indicated problems that required urgent treatment which would otherwise have gone unnoticed. Overall, 31% of conveyance decisions were changed as a direct consequence of the Labkit results. Patients reported high levels of satisfaction, and paramedics said it added value in 97% of cases where it was used to support decision-making. Reliable, quality-assured POCT by paramedics has the potential to improve efficiency in the healthcare system and benefit patients.

Cranial nerves: part 2

The clinical examination is an important part of any patient consultation. After the primary survey and history-taking, a more in-depth examination of the patient is sometimes required to aid the working diagnosis and help negate other differential diagnoses. The extent of this depends on the stability of the patient and it may not be possible in time-critical circumstances. However, it is becoming an increasing part of paramedic practice owing to the continued expansion of the scope of the paramedic role in both urgent and emergency care. Educational delivery of clinical examinations of each of the main body systems is now an integral part of undergraduate paramedic curricula.This clinical examination series provides a step-by-step overview for each of the main body systems. Continuing professional development (CPD) is an essential requirement for all clinicians in order to maintain and demonstrate currency and advancement within their roles. This series therefore provides an overview of each examination to support students, newly qualified paramedics and paramedics wishing to use these as a CPD development activity and an aide-memoire for clinical practice. These articles provide overviews of initial examination considerations, including first impressions.In this month's edition, cranial nerves VII–XII will be explored.

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