Paramedics Course – SPO2 Monitoring Oxygen Saturations

SPO2 Monitoring Oxygen Saturations

Micro-lecture by the Australian Paramedical College


In today’s micro-lecture, Australian Paramedical College Hon. Snr. Lecturer Sam Willis talks about SPO2 monitoring of oxygen saturation.


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SPO2 Monitoring Oxygen Saturations

In today’s micro lecture, we’re going to look at SPO2 monitoring of oxygen saturation. Now, monitoring oxygen saturation is one of the most single important skills you’ll be able to do as a paramedic.

For example, if a patient is having difficulty breathing, or some other type of obstruction in their respiratory system processes, this will be directly reflected in their oxygen saturation.

Let’s first and foremost be clear here. Oxygen saturations do not replace your clinical assessment of the patient. In other words, if they’re looking stressed if they’re looking fatigued, if they’re looking short of breath, cyanotic, pale like there’s some kind of hypoxia, you do not need a SpO2 monitor to provide oxygen therapy. So if the patient’s looking hypoxic, you treat hypoxia with an oxygen mask.

When it comes down to patient assessment, paramedics do tend to reach for the SpO2 monitor pretty quickly. That’s because it’s a good indicator as to the amount of oxygen that’s in the blood, and also it provides paramedics with a heart rate very quickly. Now, the heart rate part of the monitor would never replace you doing a physical assessment of the pulse or a physical patient assessment, but it’s a really useful tool to aid the assessment on an ongoing basis.

Let’s first and foremost talk about what SpO2 monitor measures. The SpO2 monitor uses two different types of light, red and infrared, to measure the amount of oxyhemoglobin in the blood. So, what do we mean by that?

Here we have a hemoglobin molecule. I’m sure you’ve read about this in your studies. Hemoglobin’s made up of heme and globin, iron and protein. Within each hemoglobin molecule, you can carry four oxygen molecules. Then your body, your red blood cell carries about one and a half million of these, and then you put the oxygen saturation probe on, and it reads the amount of oxyhemoglobin that there is.

Let’s just clarify what we mean by oxyhemoglobin. Hemoglobin is this molecule without any oxygen. The moment you add oxygen in there, that’s called oxyhemoglobin.

So, let’s take a look at some of the monitors that are available to paramedics. There are all these different types of devices. The most common one is this mobile finger probes because you can stick them in your paramedic bag. When you get on scene, you can then just place it directly onto the finger, and they’re mobile, and they’re portable. They do tend to get lost quite a bit, which is one of the disadvantages. And on top of them being lost as well, what we tend to find is that the batteries run out or they do easily get damaged as well.

The other type of device, let’s see if I can find it on this list, are the ones that are attached to the machines, to the monitors. There are monitors like this one, and you plug in a separate attachment, and you monitor the patient. In other words, they’re exactly the same device, but they are attached to a larger machine, and you can do blood pressures and CO2.

There are a couple of different devices on the market, but these ones are great. But don’t ever become over-reliant on them, guys. In other words, always treat your patient and not the machine.

I hope you’ve enjoyed that micro-lecture on SPO2.


For more information about courses and becoming a Medic / Paramedic or any other professional in the pre-hospital emergency health care sector Contact the Australian Paramedical College today:

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