Throughout the first half of the last century hyperbaric (recompression) chambers were located at the site of diving operations. They were rarely associated with or within a medical facility. Chamber operators were drawn directly from the diving team, either those divers not scheduled to enter the water or technical support personnel. By the early 1960’s hospital-based hyperbaric medicine programs were becoming commonplace. This was in response to emerging research that identified additional therapeutic benefits associated with breathing hyperbaric doses of oxygen.
At this point, it became necessary to identify a source of chamber operators. Early programs encouraged divers and others in the military and commercial diving communities to work in the hospital setting. As staffing needs soon exceeded this resource and patient care responsibilities were often beyond the knowledge and capabilities of non-healthcare professionals, hospitals looked within. Nurses, respiratory therapists and other hospital personnel were recruited, as were pre-hospital health care workers such as EMT’s and paramedics. Clearly, these individuals would best be able to support the hyperbaric medicine team if they were exposed to formal training in the basis for and delivery of hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
A number of hospitals have formalized and offer a hyperbaric medicine training course for health care professionals. These courses address fundamentals such as the physiology of hyperbaric hyperoxia and how this translates into the multiple mechanistic basis of hyperbaric oxygen therapy. From these mechanisms a wide variety of indications have been identified and are discussed. The policies impact federal agencies, such as the FDA, scientific organizations, such as the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society, and purchasers of health care on the practice of HBO therapy are identified. These aspects of hyperbaric medicine are discussed in detail, as are hyperbaric dosing issues, potential complications and side effects. Depending upon the actual hospital providing CHT training, practical sessions will include the operational aspects of multiplace or monoplace hyperbaric delivery systems and transcutaneous oximetry monitoring.
The National Board of Diving and Hyperbaric Medical Technology has in place an approval process for these courses. Those who successfully complete formal training in hyperbaric technology become eligible to take the CHT examination, upon completion of a defined preceptorship period.
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Updated October 5, 2021