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How 3D Printing Affects Emergency Medical Services

Info: 2510 words (10 pages) Nursing Essay
Published: 3rd Dec 2020

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3D Printing positively affects Emergency Medical Services (EMS) in many different ways.  In the not too distant future, 3D printed human body parts as well as better medical training and 3D printed medical supplies will all positively affect EMS, becoming integral parts of minimum accepted medical training standards across the United States. 

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There are and will be more 3D-printed body parts available for those in need, including prosthetic limbs, bones and organs. Being able to 3D print patient specific body parts is a great way to satisfy our seriously unmet organ demand and improve quality of life.  3D printed body parts also have academic use, including use during lecture or hands-on training.  As 3D printing becomes more common, the training medical personnel experience will concurrently improve.  3D printing allows medical professionals infinitely more EMS simulation, hands-on lab time; giving professionals and soon-to-be professionals an opportunity to hone or further perfect their EMS skill sets.  Enhancement of these medical skill sets allows professionals to better serve their communities, improving and/or saving more lives.  Medical supplies including splints, drug-release bandages (Saunders, 2017) and medications are also 3D printed.  These 3D printed EMS medications are patient specific.  Consequently, EMS personnel administering proper doses will be easier and less prone to error.

  As 3D printing is a relatively new and developing technology, it is currently very expensive.  As 3D printing becomes more common, it will become more affordable.  As technology progresses, overall medical costs will be largely reduced thanks to 3D printing.  These forthcoming huge reductions in medical costs as well as enhanced training and more accurate medication administration are some of most obvious ways 3D printing will positively affect Emergency Medical Services.


Emergency Medical Service (EMS) personnel respond to incidents involving people in varying levels of medical distress.  It is possible for this medical distress to be anything; it could stem from problems with our bodies or thinking.  Sometimes the cause of these problems is known, sometimes the cause is unknown.  Regardless EMS personnel need to do all they can to keep patients alive, at the very least aiming to sustain life through transport.  Sustaining life forces EMS personnel to understand and perform many different medical procedures such as controlling bleeding, responding to cardiac irregularities or arrests, performing cricothyrotomies or immobilizing body parts and/or bodies.  EMS personnel administer medications, stabilize or immobilize patients and sustain life doing whatever he or she deems necessary.  There are many medical benefits to 3D printing including 3D printed body parts as well as enhanced training and 3D printed medical supplies.  In the United States of America and ideally one day globally, these benefits will be incorporated into our minimum accepted medical standards.

Emergency Medical Services regularly respond to incidents involving damaged body parts including bones.  Damaged bones need to be splinted/stabilized not only during transport but also to ensure structural stability while the damaged bones heal.  One of the many forthcoming medical advantages to 3D printing is 3D printed splints/casts.  Soon enough, EMS personnel will create and apply PT specific splints/casts on scene or in ambulances.  ActivArmor, Osteoid Medical Cast, Cortex Cast and NovaCast are four of the most promising future 3D printed splints/casts.  Pictures of these are included at the end (Gurdita, 2019).

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, “Almost 120,000 people in the United States are currently on the waiting list for a lifesaving organ transplant. Another person is added to the national transplant waiting list every 10 minutes.  Around twenty people die every day awaiting available organs for transplant.  It’s indicated the average wait time is three to five years or longer” for people stateside.  Obviously organ disease is a massive public heath issue.  Many people are in need of healthy organs.  An organ transplant is a lifesaving treatment option.  Since the late 1980s, over 700,000 transplants have occurred in the U.S.   There are as many people dying per year of organ disease as are on the transplant waiting list.  Obviously society is enduring a seriously unmet need for organs (“Facts and Myths about Transplant”). 

Transplanting human body parts is a challenging procedure.  The integumentary system is the largest organ in the human body (Caroline, 262).  More or less, this system indicates our skin.  In 2017, a 3D printer was developed capable of printing skin directly onto burn victims at the Wake Forest school of Medicine.  After scanning the wound, a computer determines how much skin is needed to adequately fill the wound.  The US army provided funding and intends to use such technology to treat wounded soldiers  (Vialva, 2017).  

Organ transplants are not simple, there are many possible complications.  In 2018 a father wished to donate one of his kidney’s to his son.  The size of the father’s organ and the child’s available retroperitonealspace posed a real dilemma for medical professionals.  Fortunately 3D printing allowed medical professionals to practice the operation in advance using father/son replicas to aid in determining how feasible such an organ transplant would be.  Thanks to 3D printing, the father successfully donated one of his kidneys to his three year old son. (Sky, 2018). 

In 2019, another person’s life was saved thanks to a successful 3D printed organ transplant or more specifically a 3D printed kidney (Vialva, 2017).  Clearly 3D printing is already positively affecting people.  As time passes and 3D printing continues to gain popularity  becoming more common, the quality of human life will improve and more lives will be saved.

One of the largest, most successful organ 3D printing businesses is a US-based medical research and laboratory company known as Organovo.  Some of the most knowledgeable 3D printing industry experts including several of Organovo’s upper executives foresee humans 3D printing solid organs such as livers, kidneys and hearts in less than ten years.  There are more than a hundred thousand people worldwide in need of organs and on organ wait lists, the  forthcoming positive effects of 3D printing are immense (Vialva, 2017).

3D printing enhances EMS training.  Current or standard EMS cricothyrotomy training utilizes mannequins or animal tracheas (pigs or chickens).  3D printing allows the combination of people and 3D printed life-sized body parts; giving EMS personnel a much better way to safely and affordably train often practicing on each other.  The 3D printed cricothyrotomy file is available online and can be accessed free of charge (Duggan, 2017). 

Print the 3D cricothyrotomy materials.  To ensure student safety, it is recommended students wear a flexible kevlar neckguard underneath the model.  The cricothyrotomy model is then sandwiched between cotton batting and secured using waterproof tape simulating a cricothyroid membrane.  A Koban dressing is then placed around the student’s neck simulating overlying skin while keeping the cricothyrotomy model in place as well as allowing realistic laryngeal mobility.    This training maintains knowledge and improves manual skills sets to perform a cricothyrotomy safely and quickly.  It also enhances mental preparedness through infinite repetition.  (Duggan, 2017).

Medications today are administered to the best of our ability using all available patient information including signs/symptoms, known allergies, current medications and known physical features such as height, weight or age.  For pediatric emergencies, EMS personnel around the world rely on color-coded, length-based tape measures (Caroline, 729).  EMS personnel in Hillsborough county use the Broselow Tape.  After referencing this tape measure, EMS personnel know the appropriate level of shock voltage for a defibrillator, the best sized medical equipment to use and proper medication dosages.  To take advantage of 3D printing, a computer must be used.  When ambulances utilize 3D printing, EMS personnel will be able to formulate/create and administer tablets with well-defined and separate controlled release profiles meeting the particular needs of any patient (Halim 2015).  This use of more patient-specific or personalized and precise 3D printed medicines will reduce EMS error giving EMS personnel a more fail-safe, patient-friendly approach to patient care.

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3D printing is a relatively new, expensive and rapidly developing technology medical services or humans will very much benefit from.  As technology progresses and as 3D printing becomes more common, a clear benefit of 3D printing is more affordable body pats and anticipated increase of medical procedures including organ transplants.  Again 3D printing positively affects all medical fields, allowing the creation of sufficient body parts to satisfy demand coupled with a reduction in costs, enhanced training and more accurate medication administrations.

Thanks to 3D printing, global organ demand will be reduced and one day satisfied.  Medical services will be safer, more efficient and the personnel will be more confident in their  abilities as a result of training which utilizes 3D printing.  3D printed medical supplies including patient specific splints, drugs and dressings are huge positives the medical field will experience.  3D printing creates superior medical supplies and makes better training possible.  This infinite source of body parts, enhanced medical training and more accurate, patient specific medical supplies are positives affecting Emergency Medical Services.  These positives will lead to more advanced minimum accepted medical training standards across the United States of America.

Clinical Discussion

In 2029, EMS is dispatched to a Motor Vehicle Accident (MVA).  EMS arrives to find a 23 year old male not breathing sufficiently with broken bones.  EMS personnel quickly determine the incident to be life-threatening, as the airway is not patent and the patient is experiencing difficulty breathing.  EMS personnel can hear and see the airway continuing to deteriorate due to substantial facial trauma.  Advanced airway management is indicated.  The EMS crew is unable to straightaway ventilate, intubate or otherwise maintain life-supporting oxygenation/ventilation.  The patient’s neck and spine are stabilized using hands and a backboard as the patient is laid supine.  The traumatic injuries have made an airway of last resorts necessary; a cricothyrotomy will allow the patient to breath (“3d Printing” 2019). 

Fortunately as a result of many hands-on, cricothyrotomy simulations utilizing 3D printed materials, this EMS crew is comfortable with the procedure.  The patient’s information is found  in the vehicle, on the patient or accessed using the vehicle’s license plate. The EMS crew enters the patient’s information and scans the patient.  The computer accesses/displays the patient’s medical history including current prescriptions and allergies and the 3D printer dispenses the PT specific medical supplies, including medications as well as splints and/or dressings.  An IV is established.  Medications are administered.  The cricothyrotomy is quickly performed.  Bilateral auscultation of the lungs confirms tube placement, as well as witnessing misting of the tube and chest rise and fall.  The patient now has a patent airway and is breathing.    The remaining 3D printed medical supplies are applied.  The patient is transported to a hospital.  The patient benefited from the EMS crew’s enhanced training and the patient specific medical supplies created on scene.  Thanks to more advanced minimum accepted medical standards and 3D printing, this patient received safe, timely life-saving treatment. 


  • 3D printing. (2019, October 25). Retrieved October 28, 2019, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/3D_printing
  • Caroline, N., Pollak, A. N., Aehlert, B., Elling, B., (Eds.). (2018). Nancy Carolines: Emergency care in the streets (8th ed.). Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.
  • Duggan, L. V., Lockhart, S. L., Romano, K. R., Weingart, S. D., Levitan, R. M., & Brindley, P. G. (2017, July 11). Front-of-neck airway meets front-of-neck simulation: improving cricothyroidotomy skills using a novel open-access three-dimensional model and the Airway App. Retrieved November 11, 2019, from https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12630-017-0926-9
  • Facts and Myths about Transplant. (n.d.). Retrieved November 4, 2019, from https://www.americantransplantfoundation.org/about-transplant/facts-and-myths/
  • Gurdita, A. (2019, March 8). 3D Printed Cast – The Most Promising Projects in 2019. Retrieved October 28, 2019, from https://all3dp.com/2/3d-printed-cast-the-most-promising-projects/
  • Halim, S. (2019, March 18). World's first life-saving 3D printed kidney changing the game for surgical operations. Retrieved October 30, 2019, from https://www.healtheuropa.eu/3d-printed-kidney-surgical-operations/90805/.
  • Saunders, S. (2017, October 23). Researchers Turn to Multi-Material 3D Printing to Develop Responsive, Versatile Smart Composites - 3DPrint.com: The Voice of 3D Printing / Additive Manufacturing. Retrieved October 30, 2019, from https://3dprint.com/191717/sequential-cell-opening-mechanism/
  • Sky. (2018, May 17). Boy gets kidney transplant thanks to 3D printing. Retrieved October 30, 2019, from https://news.sky.com/video/3d-printing-assists-kidney-transplant-in-boy-11374845
  • Vialva, T., Essop, A., Jackson, B., Petch, M., Meskó, B., Lo, A., … D Printing Industry. (2017, August 16). 12 Things We Can 3D Print in Medicine. Retrieved October 27, 2019, from https://3dprintingindustry.com/news/12-things-we-can-3d-print-in-medicine-right-now-42867/

Some of the most promising, comfortable, light-weight,

water-friendly and ventilated patient specific splints or casts (Gurdita, 2019):

ActivArmorOsteoid Medical Cast

Cortex CastNovaCast

       can be easily applied by snapping together two halves, not allowing disassembly


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