Nursing Interventions During Medical Transport for COPD Patients

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a serious respiratory condition that causes shortness of breath, coughing, thick mucus, and frequent infections. If subtle changes in the COPD patient’s condition are not recognized and addressed quickly a life-threatening situation may develop.

It is for this reason that COPD patients need critical care monitoring by a skilled registered nurse during a long distance medical transport flight. Here are some ways a flight nurse can keep your loved one with COPD safe during air medical transportation.

Capillary Refill Assessment

The registered nurse will assess your loved one’s capillary refill which is an indicator of hemodynamic stability. To perform this simple test, the nurse applies pressure to the nail bed of the fingernail until it gets white, which is known as blanching. After blanching has taken place, the pressure is then released.

If the pinkness of the fingernail returns in a couple of seconds or less, the test is considered normal. If the normal color is slow to return, there may be a problem with oxygenation related to COPD, peripheral vascular disease, or shock.

Lung Sound Auscultation

During your loved one’s long distance medical transport flight, the registered nurse will auscultate, or listen to his or her lung sounds with a stethoscope. By doing so, the nurse can detect abnormal sounds that may indicate congestion or other pulmonary problems.

If the auscultation assessment is abnormal, the nurse will implement nursing interventions such as oxygen administration to help promote an effective breathing pattern. Once the aircraft lands, the nurse will report his or her findings to the physician, who will further evaluate the patient’s lung function.

For more information about how flight nurses can monitor patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or to request a medical flight escort, contact Flying Nurses International LLC through our website at

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    Author: Ally Allshouse

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