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Swiss Air-Rescue Rega, to home page

“We think two steps ahead”

Together with his team of instructors, senior paramedic Lukas Styger trains paramedics how to perform helicopter procedures, such as rescue hoist operations.

What does a paramedic’s job involve at Rega?
The range of tasks is extremely wide-ranging and varied, because our paramedics are the link between aviation and medicine. During the flight, they act as the pilot’s right hand and support him in navigating, identifying obstacles and talking over the radio with mission partners. On the ground, they provide patients with medical assistance together with the emergency flight physician. With rescues in adverse terrain, they are also responsible for operating the rescue hoist.

What is Rega's recruitment procedure for paramedics? 
We only recruit qualified paramedics with experience, that is, who have already worked for ground-based rescue services for several years. The candidates then go through a multi-stage assessment procedure and attend a “get-to know-you day” at a helicopter base.

What skills do they need to bring with them?
A helicopter crew comprises an emergency flight physician, a pilot and a paramedic. They need to work very closely together under demanding conditions, such as time pressure. As the link between aviation and medicine, the paramedic plays a special role in this three-person crew, which is why above all else we need good team players. This is a quality that they need to bring with them, because it is not something that can be trained. 

What other criteria do they need to fulfil?
The paramedics must be able to anticipate situations quickly, in other words, always think at least two steps ahead. The possibilities and limitations of the helicopter play an important role in the mission: a comprehensive technical understanding and distinct spatial perception are therefore also necessary. The latter is particularly important when operating the rescue hoist, which is another of the paramedic’s tasks.

Why is spatial perception so important?
The paramedic controls the rescue hoist, on which the emergency flight physician or the helicopter rescue specialist from the Swiss Alpine Club is lowered to the patient, standing at the open side door using the operating handle. At the same time, they are in contact with the pilot via the on-board intercom system and give him instructions relating to the position of the helicopter. They thus need to be able to gauge the horizontal and vertical distances, as well as read the terrain. Hoist missions are most challenging at night, because the darkness makes it difficult to orient yourself in the terrain.

What training do the paramedics undergo?
Responsible for in-house training is a team of instructors, comprising experienced Rega paramedics who have an additional function in basic and further training. The in-house basic training lasts two and a half months. During this time, the “new” paramedics learn about Rega’s medical equipment, our standard operational procedures, how to interact with a helicopter and how to operate the rescue hoist. Then it takes almost two years to complete all the other training modules. 

Is additional training necessary after that?
Yes. Afterwards, the paramedics – as is the case with all crew members – regularly take part in training exercises, so that in an emergency, the collaboration among the crew works efficiently and professionally, even under the most arduous conditions.

Additional information