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Everyday EMS
by Greg Friese

Prepare for looming oxygen shortage

These are some preparedness tips you should share immediately with your colleagues

By Greg Friese

Editor's note: For those who haven't caught on, note the date of publication. Happy April Fools' Day! We hope you enjoyed our series of articles to mark April 1. Check out the full round-up here.

Drug shortages are capturing the headlines and EMS service directors, medical directors and pharmacists are scrambling to maintain necessary stores of lifesaving medications.

Even though the 2010 American Heart Association Emergency Cardiac Care Guidelines have reduced overall usage of oxygen – limiting administration only to patients with signs of hypoxia — it is critical that we are all prepared for the looming oxygen shortage.

These are some preparedness tips you should share immediately with your colleagues, service director, and medical director:

1. Practice mindful and intentional bradypnea. Begin by crossing your legs, straightening your back and resting your hands on your knees. Close your eyes and let your mind wander to a happy place. Slowly breathe in … hold 1 … 2 … 3 … 4 … 5 and slowly exhale. Practice until you can count to 10 between each breath.

2. Cancel all staff meetings, especially meetings without agendas, goals, or objectives. If a meeting must be held, try this oxygen conservation technique. The speaker can only talk for as long as the audience can hold their breath. As soon as someone inhales, the speaker must cede the floor to the next speaker.

3. Prohibit EMS providers from self administering oxygen boluses after physical exertion. If you are gassed after climbing a single flight of stairs like a defensive lineman that just ran a fumble back for a touchdown, you need to solve the underlying fitness problem.

4. Increase the ambient oxygen supply in the patient care compartment by mounting several small plants on the action counter next to the captain's chair. Make sure you periodically turn the plants so they don't grow unevenly toward the nearest window.

Finally, even though you might be told "the nurse on the last shift said this COPD patient would be OK on ¼ liter by nasal cannula" running through 15 meters of tubing, it is probably OK to turn the O's up to at least 1 liter, especially if the patient is hypoxic.

How are you preparing for the looming oxygen shortage? Have you reduced your respiratory drive? How can you keep the windbags around you from over-consuming oxygen?

About the author

Greg Friese is Editor-in-Chief of EMS1.com. He is an educator, author, paramedic, and marathon runner. Ask questions or submit tip ideas to Greg by e-mailing him at greg.friese@ems1.com.
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