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5 considerations for purchasing stretcher attachments

Conduct a needs assessment to establish how accessories will be used to save time and protect providers

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Any equipment purchase starts with a needs assessment of what you’re hoping to accomplish with the purchase and how you will incorporate its use into your service.

AP Photo/John Minchillo

From medical monitoring equipment, to accessories to hold medic gear and more, to patient shields, stretcher accessories can make it easier for EMS providers to assess and treat patients, and protect patients and providers during transport.

Any equipment purchase starts with a needs assessment of what you’re hoping to accomplish with the purchase and how you will incorporate its use into your service.

The following are five things to consider when evaluating a potential stretcher attachment purchase.

1. EMS provider safety

Protecting providers from injury or and exposure that could sideline them – or worse – is a worthy end goal in justifying any expenditure.

Freeing up hands allows providers to focus on posture, footing and situational awareness, rather than worrying about the equipment they’re holding.

A 4-year study by the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety found that body motion, including awkward posture and repetitive movement, were the most common cause of EMS workplace injury that led to emergency room visits. Carrying heavy equipment could lead to strain and injury. The ability to attach some equipment to your stretcher may help cut down on provider injuries.

Ensure stretchers and add-ons will not become an additional hazard if the ambulance is involved in an accident. Are they crash tested and certified?

2. Time savings

Before purchasing a stretcher mounting system or attachment, investigate whether or not the device will actually save you time and trouble. Make sure it’s easy to attach and remove, as time spent adjusting equipment will take away from time spent focusing on the patient. The opposite applies as well; if the attachment frees up hands and allows providers to spend more time on patient care and assessment, then it’s worth the cost.

3. Flexibility

When investing in a stretcher attachment, consider whether it can be used in multiple situations and environments. If it can only be used on a particular type of call that you see every few years, then it’s probably not worth the investment. If it would be useful for several or the majority of your calls, then it’s a helpful addition to your toolkit.

Also consider whether you would be able to use it in multiple settings and environments. Is it practical for patient manipulation/will it inhibit access to the patient? Is there enough room in the rig? Can the accessory be used in a narrow hallway? How will it affect climbing stairs? Can you remove it easily when not in use? All these are important considerations before buying.

4. EMS training

It’s important to ensure that crews know how, when and why they would use a certain accessory. Some equipment may require more intensive training and time, while other purchases may be more self-explanatory.

You want to ensure that crews will know exactly how a device works when they’re treating a patient and won’t have to fumble through using it for the first time. Overly complicated devices may not be worth the effort or may require some training beforehand to ensure that they are utilized correctly. Check manufacturer disposition guides and materials for manipulation instructions.

5. Establishing buy-in

Before buying a piece of equipment, talk to your crews and coworkers, and gauge whether they will actually want to use it. They can give you an idea of what would make their jobs easier and what equipment they wish they had. Little things could make a huge difference and may already be on the market.

Marianne Meyers, BS, is a third-year medical student at the University of Washington School of Medicine interested in pursuing emergency medicine. Previously, she was a member of the Santa Clara University collegiate EMS squad where she received her B.S. in Public Health Science. Additionally, she has worked with the King County Public Health Department in Seattle, Washington studying EMT naloxone administration.