Back in my ambulance days, most of the time we would arrive on scene and the injured party was able to communicate with us. That’s the ideal situation. The worst was when we arrived to find an unconscious person lying on the ground or floor. When the extent of their injuries is not clear, you must take great care with how you move them into the ambulance, to minimize chances of causing further damage.
In my time (early ’90s) we used a “spine board” in those situations. This was a thin, 6-foot long wooden board with holes in it for straps and as handles. We’d gently roll the patient on their side, slide the board beneath them, then roll them back onto it. We could then lift the board. This primitive method was not ideal as the initial rolling could worsen internal injuries.
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A spine board
These days, the spine board has given way to what’s called a scoop stretcher. This is a much smarter design, whereby the stretcher splits, and can be drawn back together underneath the patient’s body.
A scoop stretcher
A scoop stretcher in use. (Image: Christophe Dang Ngoc Chan (Cdang) – CC BY-SA 3.0)
Studio Rotor, a Dutch design consultancy founded by industrial designer Floris Wiegerinck, has done the scoop stretcher one better. They didn’t set out to redesign specifically the scoop stretcher, but while researching first responder pain points while under contract from medical equipment manufacturer Retter Medical, identified the scoop stretcher as an opportunity:
“This project started with a broad exploration of the working environment of EMS personnel. What physical strain are they exposed to? Is it possible to develop tools to make their work easier? We observed and spoke to several ambulance workers, managers and other experts to understand the problems they face.
“The research showed that traditional manual stretchers in ambulances are increasingly being replaced by electric stretchers. These are heavy stretchers of 60 kg in which there is a lifting mechanism. It seems that paramedics regularly leave these heavy stretchers in the ambulance, as most of their patients are still quite mobile. In those cases, the paramedics themselves have to carry all their equipment (about 35 kg).
“The research also showed that there is actually a scoop stretcher on every ambulance…. These scoop stretchers are rarely used, but they do take up a lot of space.”
Studio Rotor’s solution was to wring greater utility out of the scoop stretcher. Their redesign, called the Multi Scoop Pro, can quickly transform into a wheeled chair:
“Then three functions are combined. First, EMS personnel can transport their equipment to the patient’s location.”
“Second, they can take slightly injured patients in wheelchair mode back to the ambulance.”
“And thirdly, the system can be used as a normal scoop stretcher in more serious accidents.”
Here it is in action: