Developing physical employment standards in Helicopter Emergency Medical Services – a benchmark for the future.

Mr Ben Meadley1,2, Dr Kelly-Ann Bowles1, Dr Joanne Caldwell-Odgers

1Monash University, Clayton, Australia,

2Ambulance Victoria, Doncaster, Australia


Physical employment standards are devised to ensure that an employee’s physiological capacities correspond with the specific tasks of the role. The design and implementation of non-arbitrary, scientifically-validated physical employment standards can provide benefits to staff, the wider organisation, and importantly, patients. This is especially relevant in areas of healthcare where patient access, clinical interventions and extraction to definitive care may be time-critical, such as prehospital emergency care and helicopter emergency medical services (HEMS).

Aviation regulatory bodies in Australia and New Zealand do not currently mandate physical employment standards for staff undertaking helicopter-based search and rescue. Our data indicates that HEMS staff across Australasia undertake similar roles, yet the initial and ongoing physical employment standards set by individual organisations vary widely. Of the services that have implemented physical employment standards, few demonstrate an evidenced based, scientifically validated approach. Thus, this poses two questions: Do the required physical standards bear a relationship to specific tasks defined within the role? Do the current standards appropriately select or eliminate those applying for position in HEMS?

This presentation will summarise the current physical employment standards for HEMS staff in Australian and New Zealand helicopter rescue services. Additionally, we will propose a process to develop an evidence-based process for developing a scientifically robust, legally defensible physical employment standard in helicopter-based emergency healthcare, with a focus on HEMS clinicians performing search and rescue tasks.

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