Crew Resource Management (CRM) is defined as a set of training procedures for use in environments where human error can have devastating effects.
Used primarily for improving air safety, CRM focuses on interpersonal communication, leadership, and decision making in the cockpit. However, CRM is so much more than how pilots interact inside of a cockpit. CRM relates to any occupation where good decision making, communication and high situational awareness is required.
How do you handle a situation as a pilot, a physician, a captain in EMS or a chief in Fire and Rescue? Do you consider meaningful input from your crew or just spout out commands that you expect to be taken as ‘Gospel’?
Perhaps you are part of a crew that must work together to accomplish a goal. Do you just work alongside your peers without working with them? Could it be better if everyone was truly working together as a team?
CRM is important for functioning as a team
No longer do our occupational workforces require blind following of management or allow us to work in a vacuum. We live in the age where everything from Survey Monkey to team-building weekends are used to facilitate employees working together to achieve not just an outcome but an outcome that is produced with competence in critical thinking, efficient communication and keen situational awareness.
Utilization of Crew Resource Management (CRM) can bring you and your crew the best outcome.
As a Helicopter Air Ambulance pilot, I witness this extraordinary dance of CRM within the confines of the helicopter as well as in the hospital facilities when I accompany the medical crews into the depths of hospital trauma centers. As a Subject Matter Expert in CRM, I enjoy observing the coordination that takes place between these professionals as they work together to transport patients whose very care requires the aforementioned levels of critical thinking, communication and situational awareness.
Witnessing CRM in Action
One of my first flights as a pilot in an air ambulance service was to the scene of a horrific car accident. Equipped with night vision goggles, the medical crew and I left the base after dark. During the flight, the crew suggested that I follow them into the hospital to the ER to get a real feel for how things worked in a Level One Trauma Center on a scene flight with a critically injured patient.
The abundance of flashing emergency lights at the scene made it easy to see from quite a distance away as I made the approach. After we touched down, the medical crew quickly exited the helicopter and proceeded to the back of the ambulance. Moments later the ambulance doors flew open and the crew rushed to the helicopter and loaded the patient. Not a second was wasted as they immediately began to work on the patient while I took off from the scene. Unfortunately the condition of the patient deteriorated, and the medical crew began CPR.
During my time as a Marine pilot, I experienced many extreme situations. As part of the original combat operations in Afghanistan in 2001, I led missions where Crew Resource Management (CRM) and communication were paramount. However, here in this air ambulance I was witnessing one of the most amazing displays of CRM I had ever seen. The Flight Nurse and Flight Paramedic worked in unison in the resuscitation efforts for this patient. Their critical decision making, communication and awareness of the situation were amazing. These two professionals easily adapted to the situation that was changing second by second as a life hung in the balance.
After landing on the hospital pad, I shut the helicopter down and jumped out while the crew worked feverishly to save the patient’s life. Communication was imperative, and a constant stream of information passed between them. Following them into the ER, I observed more of the same as the patient was smoothly transitioned into the trauma bay, and the ER staff took over without skipping a beat.
The Flight Medic stepped to the foot of the bed, efficiently communicated the patient report using brief and concise language, and then swiftly stepped away. What I witnessed next seemed to be ‘controlled chaos.’ The volume of CRM that transpired in the trauma bay was further evidence that the decision making, communication and situational awareness are vitally important in order to save a patient’s life.
Crew Resource Management (CRM) is not just for pilots.
If you are in a job or position where you have to make decisions, communicate and have high situational awareness then CRM is a must.