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The ASA+ FNA Conference Photo Competition for 30th Aeromedical Society of Australasia and Flight Nur

Mick Wilson Oration

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


Ben Meadley
Monash University, Clayton, Australia, Ambulance Victoria, Doncaster, Australia

Kelly-Ann Bowles

Monash University, Clayton, Australia

Joanne Caldwell-Odgers



Ben Meadley has gained extensive experience in prehospital care over the last 20 years and is currently an Intensive Care Flight Paramedic (MICA) with Ambulance Victoria. Ben has a keen interest in prehospital critical care, advanced clinical assessment and developing clinical judgement in critical care practitioners. Ben has been heavily involved with the development and implementation of contemporary clinical practice guidelines both locally and internationally.

Ben is a PhD candidate at Monash University, and his project is investigating the physiological and metabolic health of paramedics, as well as specialist paramedic task performance and physical employment standards.



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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