Background Critical Care Air Transport Teams care for 5% to 10% of injured patients who are transported on military aircraft to definitive treatment facilities. Little is known about how the aeromedical evacuation environment affects care.
Objectives To determine the effects of 2 stressors of flight, altitude-induced hypoxia and aircraft noise, and to examine the contributions of fatigue and clinical experience on cognitive and physiological performance of the Critical Care Air Transport Team.
Methods This repeated measures 2 × 2 × 4 factorial study included 60 military nurses. The participants completed a simulated patient care scenario under aircraft cabin noise and altitude conditions. Differences in cognitive and physiological performance were analyzed using repeated measures analysis of variance. A multiple regression model was developed to determine the independent contributions of fatigue and clinical experience.
Results Critical care scores (P = .02) and errors and omissions (P = .047) were negatively affected by noise. Noise was associated with increased respiratory rate (P = .02). Critical care scores (P < .001) and errors and omissions (P = .002) worsened with altitude-induced hypoxemia. Heart rate and respiratory rate increased with altitude-induced hypoxemia; oxygen saturation decreased (P < .001 for all 3 variables).
Conclusion In a simulated military aircraft environment, the care of critically ill patients was significantly affected by noise and altitude-induced hypoxemia. The participants did not report much fatigue and experience did not play a role, contrary to most findings in the literature. (Critical Care Nurse. 2018; 38:18-29)