Adapting to the unknown

 Rachel Benbow 4 Sep 2020

COVID-19 has changed our lives and changed our industry, moving sick and injured patients requires a coordination of a large number of agencies and providers to succinctly work together for a mutual aim.

While globally the motivations remain the same our agencies and providers capabilities are diminished, as nurses we must foresee what is possible and adapt and overcome to a largely unknown future.

COVID-19 has changed all our lives, all elements of our lives are impacted, and we never escape; in our work we seek no refuge from this, in fact our work sets us deeper into the mire while trying to help others through it. Providing assistance to those who are sick and injured overseas has never been so complex, not only is the clinical picture changing regularly, but it seems like the very ground we work on is an ever changing vista, the transport providers we relied upon are ever changing, our visas we once relied upon to provide access are now void, access to treatment facilities has become an assault course of administration and regulations. We are managing levels of anxiety never seen globally in our travelling communities.

But we are all in the same situation. Globally despite our cultural, legal and economic values the desire to do the right thing by sick and injured people is overwhelming. Since the arrival of COVID-19 into the UK in February 2020 we have moved numerous patients with and without COVID-19; initially these were extremely challenging, but as time has passed we have all established new working procedures allowing the normal functions of travel and hospital admission to become more achievable in a sensible time frame. But we do have a long way to go, and while corporate clients will want to see many of their assignees return to their field work, the leisure portfolio of work is stark.

While I have every confidence that the industry, we have serviced diligently over the years will return, the return is likely to be slower than some anticipate. IATA air passenger forecast comments "COVID-19 has a profound impact on our forecast profile in the near-term with a sharp fall in 2020 and strong recovery in 2021 and 2022". However the summary goes onto describe that passenger flight numbers are unlikely to reach 2019 levels until 2025.

There are key features in our adaptation to the new future of international travel assistance, be it corporate or leisure. It starts with the traveller having the confidence to travel - this has many facets, one of which is travel insurance. There are limited policies available to provide cover for pandemic related claims; this needs to change for our industry to survive. Providers including hospitals, Air ambulance and commercial airlines are rapidly finding new ways of safely providing their services, however for commercial airlines particularly they are tightrope walking, desperately restructuring and rearranging routes to survive this storm.

This approach of restructuring and diversifying has been like breathing for me since the outset of COVID-19; many assistance companies are multifaceted, providing and or servicing a range of products of which nurses can adapt to service. In the same way our colleagues in hospitals have had to turn their hand to new roles and responsibilities, we too are doing the same. How we truly adapt to a future which is unclear is complex, but firstly we must survive our present and establish clear lines of communication with the many providers of our future to work together to succeed.

Rachel Benbow

Rachel Benbow

RCN Critical Care and Flight Nursing Forum member

Chief Nursing Officer, IMG Europe

Medical nurse - A&E nurse - RAF Aux flight nurse - Chief nurse providing assistance services to a catalogue of corporate and leisure clients since 2013.

Page last updated - 04/09/2020