People with chronic conditions can, in many cases, still use air travel to reach their destinations. Doing so requires planning and consultation with clinicians. It’s also helpful to travel with medical professionals who can provide continuity of care during air travel.
Flight nurses who work for non-emergency medical transport (NEMT) companies can provide this service, traveling with patients from their home to their final destination. The best NEMT companies also employ RN flight coordinators to book all the tickets for the flight as well as work with airlines and airports in advance to help smooth the way for clients with chronic conditions.
As noted by Johns Hopkins Medicine, “Chronic conditions should not keep people from enjoying travel.” They advise that as with other medical conditions, people with chronic diseases should always “see their healthcare provider as early as possible before traveling.”
Johns Hopkins also notes that those with chronic conditions should “travel with a companion familiar with their condition.”
What Is Continuity of Care During Air Travel?
The term continuity of care refers to the healthcare strategy of coordination and delivering services to a patient over a period of time and at different locations. The idea is to provide patients with consistent, uninterrupted care that allows them to seamlessly move between healthcare providers and settings.
Continuity of care is especially important for patients with chronic conditions or complex medical needs. In those cases, patients often require care from a variety of providers.
In the context of air travel, continuity of care refers to delivery of healthcare services during a journey using commercial airlines. Flight nurses accompany patients throughout the trip, overseeing medications and providing any needed medical treatment. They also assist those with chronic conditions as they navigate the airport, as well as boarding and deplaning.
Examples of Common Chronic Conditions
What are some of the chronic conditions that people travel with the most? They include hypertension, arthritis, allergies, traumatic brain injury, stroke (depending on the type and severity), mild asthma, and chronic digestive issues such as acid reflux. Those with injuries that limit mobility can also often fly, including those with a broken leg.
Some of those with certain conditions may be advised against air travel, according to Johns Hopkins. They include people with cardiac failure, a recent myocardial infarction (heart attack) or stroke, angina (chest pain) at rest, heart rate or rhythm disorders, uncontrolled arterial hypertension, severe anemia, sickle-cell anemia, acute mental disorders, epilepsy, and any serious or contagious diseases. Even in these cases, the decision to fly or not depends on an individual’s medical condition.
What NEMT Flight Nurses Do
NEMT flight nurses work with RN flight coordinators, going through the details of a client’s flight and reviewing the care they will require. They also review airport procedures and contact airline and airport officials about any special requirements a client might need, such as a special security line or boarding a plane early.
Nurses also review a client’s condition and ensure all the necessary medical equipment and medications are packed for the trip. They also have a medical kit of their own to prepare for any needs the client might experience during air travel or at the airport.
Flight nurses are trained in flight physiology, as well as psychological distress patients may experience during a flight. They also track the times for giving clients their medication and make routine health checks. In this way, they ensure continuity of care during air travel for their clients, including those with chronic conditions.
Flight nurses provide important care for those with chronic conditions who do not want to fly alone. An NEMT flight nurse provides the peace of mind in knowing clients by providing continuity of care during air travel.