Designing Airway Management Equipment for Paramedics


T’heniel’s research examined the airway management process that Paramedics undertake during patient resuscitations. Three areas within the airway management process were identified as opportunities for a product design intervention. Using Human Centered design methods, three design solutions were developed with Paramedics and paramedicine students.

T'heniel's research centered around identifying areas, within the pre-hospital airway management process, where design could benefit Paramedics. She discovered that the Airway Management process during patient resuscitation is complex and involves a lot of steps to prepare the equipment. Once CPR has commenced, paramedics have less than 4 minutes to prepare the equipment as it is inserted at the beginning of the third cycle of CPR (each cycle is 2 minutes). For her research, T'heniel conducted high fidelity cardiac arrest simulations where paramedicine students performed CPR on a training manikin. This was to gain a better understanding of how paramedics interact with the equipment and to understand the external factors that impact paramedics. Through this she discovered that patient resuscitations are stressful, cognitively demanding and time critical situations.

From interviews, simulations, and a think-aloud session demonstrating the equipment, T'heniel identified three areas where design could benefit paramedics — the connectors, the tube holder, and the storage.

Once an airway device is inserted into a patient, there are 3-4 more pieces of equipment that is attached to facilitate the ventilation of the patient. During patient resuscitations, this equipment could be easily attached in an incorrect configuration. One insight was that it was challenging to remember the correct configuration. Time would also be wasted trying to connect each piece correctly the first time as the connectors could only fit one way.

The tube holder is used to secure the airway device once it is inserted into the patient. The current design solution was viewed as tricky to use and the securing mechanism did make it easier to kink the tube which would obstruct air flow. This could negatively impact the patient’s oxygen intake and result in poor patient outcomes.

T'heniel discovered that the current solution for the airway management equipment was spread out in multiple pouches. These pouches had two zips to open which could waste time. The equipment scattered indifferent bags also made it difficult to find during an emergency.  

Ideating and creating a solution for each area, T'heniel  developed each concept with the feedback gained from user testing sessions with paramedicine students and experienced paramedics. This was crucial as it allowed her to tailor the design to paramedics and their workflow.

T'heniel presented these final designs to the AUT paramedicine department and gained valuable feedback. They loved how the new filter design made it easy to remember what equipment is attached after it. They also thought the tube holder was a better alternative to the current solution as it was faster and easier to secure the tube.

The paramedics appreciated how the storage solution had an equipment preparation area (EPA) to prepare the equipment. They also thought that having a silhouette of the equipment on the EPA would be beneficial to novice paramedics as it is a good reminder of what equipment needs to be prepared. It also makes communicating what needs to be prepared when swapping tasks, a lot easier."

Here’s what T’heniel had to say about her Masters experience:
“As a designer, I always wanted to design something that helped people. This project helped me learn more about the value of user feedback and understanding how my designs might be used. I was extremely fortunate to find paramedicine students and paramedics that could use their experiences to inform the design solutions. I learned the value of research and how it can result in beneficial design outcomes. From my masters project, I learned I could pick up new skills and adapt to any issues I encountered. I felt I grew more confident with arranging meetings and contacting people to help with this project. I believe the outcomes of my research have the potential to benefit paramedics during the airway management process.”

T'heniel's Masters exegesis is currently embargoed, but will be available here when released:

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