Clinical Practice

Clinical exam: an introduction

The clinical examination is an important part of any patient consultation. After the primary survey and patient history, a more in-depth examination of the patient is required in order to aid the working diagnosis and help negate other differential diagnoses. The extent of this depends on the stability of the patient condition and may not be possible in time-critical circumstances. However, it is becoming an increasing part of paramedic practice due to continued expansion of the scope of the...

Physical health in mental health: considerations for paramedics

Life expectancy for people with a mental illness diagnosis is 15–20 years less than those without, mainly because of poor physical health. Mental ill health affects a significant proportion of paramedics' patients, and practitioners could assess and promote their physical health even though contact time is limited. Factors affecting physical health include substandard and disjointed care, stigma and diagnostic overshadowing—where physical symptoms are dismissed as a feature of mental illness....

Salutogenesis: the case for a holistic tool for paramedic assessment of wellness

Sense of coherence (SOC), the capacity to muster, believe in and value resources to support resilience, is a central component of the salutogenic approach to wellness. Assessing patients' SOC in a salutogenic model may be useful to paramedics as an adjunct to effective referral to care pathways other than via the emergency department and for predicting patient engagement. A tool to help direct practitioners in the prehospital environment towards the most appropriate resources for each patient's...

Oxygen titration therapy and hypercapnia risk in COPD

Background: Estimated to be the third leading cause of death in the UK by 2030, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a common presenting complaint requiring an emergency ambulance. It is recognised that patients with COPD are at high risk of developing hypercapnia with the main theory of causality being high-flow oxygen therapy. Therefore, current guidelines recommend titrating oxygen therapy to maintain oxygen saturation percentage (SpO<sub>2</sub>) of 88–92% to reduce this...

Non-invasive ventilation as a prehospital intervention for acute COPD exacerbation

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the second most common respiratory illness in the UK, affecting over 1 million people. Acute exacerbations of COPD are a common presentation to the ambulance service and account for thousands of hospital admissions annually. Acute respiratory failure accompanies approximately 20% of exacerbations. Current prehospital treatment focuses on oxygen and pharmacological therapy to treat the underlying causes. Non-invasive ventilation (NIV) is a method of...

Clinical suspicion regarding needle decompression for patients with chest trauma

Background: Needle decompression of the chest is indicated for patients in a critical condition with rapid deterioration who have a life-threatening tension pneumothorax. Aim: To reassure UK prehospital care providers that needle decompression of the chest is not commonly required in chest trauma patients, and most can be safely managed without it. Methods: Case studies as part of a major trauma network continuous review process have revealed instances of needle decompression in the absence...

Prehospital emergency anaesthesia: time taken to care for and respond to a critically injured patient

The 2007 National Confidential Enquiry into Patient Outcome and Death (NCEPOD) Trauma: Who Cares? report recommended that people trained to administer anaesthesia and intubate severely injured patients should be available in prehospital environments. Published articles, reference documents and guidance reports were reviewed to compare the management plans and standard operating procedures produced by an ambulance trust in England that provides prehospital emergency anaesthesia (PHEA). Documents...

Decision making for patients categorised as ‘amber’ in a rural setting

Background: Reducing unnecessary conveyances to hospital can help relieve pressure on emergency departments. Making decisions about conveyance in rural areas is particularly challenging because of the travel distances involved. Aims: To explore perceptions of paramedics in a rural setting about how they make decisions regarding conveyance and non-conveyance for patients categorised as ‘amber’ (serious but not life-threatening). Methods: Data were collected through interviews with 17...

Managing common end-of-life cancer presentations according to the evidence

The ambulance service is increasingly being called to patients suffering from cancer who are near the end of their lives. This presents challenges to clinicians who may not be confident in the management of symptoms near the end of life. The approach to, and management of, these types of patients often requires different considerations to more traditional emergency calls. This article reviews the evidence around the management of common cancer presentations at the end of life. In particular, it...

Does digoxin cause more harm than good?

Background: The most recent British National Formulary recommends digoxin therapy for patients with heart failure (HF) and/or supraventricular arrhythmias, particularly atrial fibrillation (AF) and atrial flutter. The positive inotropic and negative chronotropic effects of the drug are undoubtedly desirable when managing these conditions, yet the use of digoxin is decreasing in popularity among prescribers. Aim: The aim of this literature review is to evaluate the use of digoxin for treating...

Point-of-care blood tests in decision-making for people over 65 with acute frailty

Background: National ‘see, treat and discharge’ rates for paramedics have increased. However, despite the rise in demand on paramedic decision-making, there have been few improvements to prehospital diagnostics. Patients aged over 65 years presenting with acute frailty syndromes are a notably complex clinical patient group for whom informed risk stratification in clinical reasoning is paramount. Methods: This was a single-site quality improvement project using point-of-care blood testing...

Methoxyflurane (Penthrox®)—a case series of use in the prehospital setting

Methoxyflurane (Penthrox®) is a fluorinated hydrocarbon, which when first used in general anaesthesia was noted to have strong analgesic properties in subanaesthetic dosage. More than 5 million doses have been sold for use in Australia since 1978 and have been found to have an excellent safety profile. After rigorous review by the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency, methoxyflurane was granted a product licence in 2015 in the UK and Europe for the relief of pain in patients with...

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