En Route Care Provided by US Navy Nurses in Iraq and Afghanistan

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Abstract

Background US Navy nurses provide en route care for critically injured combat casualties without having a formal program for training, utilization, or evaluation. Little is known about missions supported by Navy nurses.

Objectives To characterize the number and types of patients transported and skill sets required by Navy nurses during 2 combat support deployments.

Methods All interfacility casualty transfers between 2 separate facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan were assessed. Number of patients treated, number transported, en route care provider type, transport priority level and duration, injury severity, indication for critical care transport, en route care interventions, and vital signs were evaluated.

Results Of 1550 casualties, 630 required medical evacuation to a higher level of care. Of those, 133 (21%) were transported by a Navy nurse, with 131 (98.5%) classified as “urgent,” accounting for 46% of all urgent transports. The primary indication for en route care nursing was mechanical ventilation of intubated patients (97%). Mean (SD) patient transport time was 29.8 (7.9) minutes (range, 17-61 minutes). The most common en route care interventions were administration of intravenous sedation (80%), neuromuscular blockade (79%), and opioids (48%); transfusions (18%); and ventilation changes (11%). No intubations, cricothyroidotomies, chest tube placements, or needle decompressions were performed en route. No deaths occurred during transport.

Conclusions US Navy nurses successfully transported critically injured patients without observed adverse events. Establishing en route care as a program of record in the Navy will facilitate continuous process improvement to ensure that future casualties receive optimized en route care. (Critical Care Nurse. 2018; 38[2]:e1-e6)

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