Our Blog

In-Flight Medical Emergencies

Air Travel & Medical Aid

Zachary Hartsell, DHA, PA-C

With the pandemic beginning to wain in some areas, travel is on people’s minds again. While not at pre-COVID levels, air travel continues to increase as more people travel for business, pleasure, and medical tourism. Inevitably, nurse practitioners (NPs) and physician assistants (PAs) may find themselves in situations that could require rendering medical aid during a flight. 

With a physically challenging environment such as limited resources and cramped spaces, even the most experienced healthcare providers can find themselves overwhelmed trying to render even the most basic patient care at 30,000 feet. In addition, the patchwork laws, regulations, and classification systems can make providers uncertain if they can or should volunteer to render aid.  

Resources & Support

Fear, not fellow NPs and PAs, the in-flight environment has some key resources and support to make responding easier. Legislation passed in the United States offers good protection for providers willing to assist. Knowing the type of equipment found aboard airplanes, the types of training provided to the flight crew, and ground resources available to support care providers should give you the confidence to respond to inflight emergencies.  

Are you interested in learning more? A recent review of the management of in-flight medical emergencies was published in American Family Physician and provides an excellent overview.1 Want even more? Check out my case-based presentation titled “Managing Airline Emergencies”. I’ll be speaking at the following locations: Myrtle Beach, Virginia Beach, Pensacola Beach, Atlanta, and Orlando.

Skin Bones CME Conferences

Hit the reset button while earning continuing medical education credits at our CME conferences, where you can travel to a vacation destination; earn CME credits with like-minded nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and physicians; and ‘unplug’ while enjoying a new locale! Check out our upcoming Skin, Bones, Hearts & Private Parts 2023 CME Conferences and 2024 CME Conferences! At every event, the best of the medical community gathers to earn CME credits, network, and gain knowledge on dermatology, orthopedics, cardiology and emergency medicine, women’s health, pain management and pharmacology, diabetes, ER, and mental health. On-line CME courses and Virtual CME are also available so you have the option of earning CME credits online.

See Zachary Hartsell speak at a 2022 Skin, Bones, Hearts & Private Parts CME Conference. Click here to find out where you can see him live and in-person!


  1. HU, JS and SMITH, JK. 2021. In-flight Medical Emergencies. American Family Physician. 103(9):547-552.