Stephen Rahm – Airway Management: The Anatomy, Physiology, and Procedure

Airway Management: The Anatomy, Physiology and Procedure

This blog series offers a sneak peek into the speakers and sessions at our upcoming annual conference Education by the Sea, May 10-12, 2023, in Port Aransas, Texas.

This week we are profiling Stephen Rahm, who is on the agenda to speak Friday, May 12, at 10 a.m.

A health scare with his mom provided the inspiration for Stephen Rahm’s entry into the world of emergency medical services. He was a junior firefighter with a volunteer fire department when his 38-year-old mom had a stroke and brain bleed. He was in high school and still too young to be an EMT.

“It was from that moment that I made the decision of what I wanted to do,” Rahm said. “I was mesmerized being in the back of the ambulance and saw the excellent care they gave my mom. Fortunately, she had a good outcome from that stroke, but that was the launchpad.”

Currently, Rahm is an educator, lecturer, and author whose EMS career spans more than 35 years. He oversees the Office of Clinical Direction at the Centre for Emergency Health Services and manages all clinical efforts within Bulverde-Spring Branch Emergency Services.

The “Why” Behind His Topic

Rahm chose his topic, “Airway Management: The Anatomy, Physiology, and Procedure,” because emergency personnel are always looking for better ways to manage the airway and achieve adequate oxygenation and ventilation.

“I wanted to take everything we know and put it in a topic, beginning with what I call the anatomic truth,” Rahm said.

Too often, if an airway management technique is not successful, Rahm said it relates to a lack of anatomic awareness of where the blade needs to go or exactly where to cut on the neck.

“If we just go in and perform a procedure without the benefit of the knowledge of anatomy, then our procedure is likely doomed to fail. If we have the knowledge of the procedure and a knowledge of the anatomy, but we don’t understand the physiology, then we could potentially perform the procedure on the wrong person,” Rahm related. “So that’s why I think this talk is important. It puts all the parts and pieces together; dispels some myths and things we figured out in the cadaver lab that frankly aren’t true.”

Take-Aways for the Audience

Rahm said there are many things he wants the audience to take away from his presentation since it’s a building block of anatomy, physiology, and procedure. This will help them be smarter when they take care of a patient’s airway.

His topic also addresses different levels of EMS certification, so it’s not geared just toward paramedics or advanced EMS. Everyone will take something away from this presentation, Rahm said.

“I hope attendees leave with the confidence to take care of someone’s airway – or a little bit more competence,” Rahm said. “I want them to understand the importance of how we’re affecting a patient’s physiology when we perform various airway procedures.”  

Outlook for the Industry

Rahm said it’s important to look back at history a bit to appreciate where things are headed in the industry. Twenty to 30 years ago, he said EMTs really weren’t expected to think. And that’s not putting down the EMT or certifications.

“We need to be thinking more, following the latest research trends – and thinking more clinically with better reasoning skills,” Rahm said. “Sometimes the best thing to do for a patient is nothing.”

Data-driven, evidence-based medicine in the future of medicine in general, according to Rahm. He believes it needs to be at the forefront of any EMT’s or paramedic’s mind when they think of changing their practice.

Advice to Those Starting Out in EMS

Rahm’s advice to those new in the industry is to not expect to function like a 25-year veteran on the very first call. Learn from mistakes and own them.

“We need to give ourselves grace. A lot of people don’t remember the good they did, but they’ll remember their mistakes,” Rahm said. “We have to visit the graveyard of our experiences, release ourselves from it, move forward, and make ourselves better as a result.”

Don’t miss Stephen Rahm’s session on airway management Friday, May 12, at 10 a.m.

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