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Flight Nurse’s Hierarchy of Needs

Posted Jun 13 2011 8:51am

I can tell how much time I have spent at the hangar by how unorganized my life becomes.

It is all I can do to ensure the laundry is done, there is food in the fridge and my truck is not trashed. In the past, one by one, these things gradually get out of control. I would finally have a day off and the awful state of my world would come into focus.

We recently have found ourselves sorely short staffed. As with any healthcare department, it is cyclical and not surprising. This, however, has been more challenging than normal.

When discussing flight medicine with someone seriously considering it as a career, I try to mention some of the more unique features of the field. This is not like working for an ambulance company or a med/surg floor with a huge pool of part time employees. There is no being pulled to the helicopter like they used to pull me to the floor when they were short staffed.

There are a set number of full-time flight nurses who cover 36 hours a day 7 days a week 365 days a year. There is no calling out sick because of a hang-over or wanting to screw off when the weather is nice. We work when we don’t necessarily feel well. We give up family functions, vacations and planned days off frequently to ensure there is coverage.

We have no resource pool. We are it.

It may be our family that needs us. It may be our friend or neighbor who is ill or injured. We possess a dedication to our profession, our patients and ourselves that far surpasses the usual work place. Even when we don’t know how things will work out, we cover the shifts. Some way, somehow.

Flexible to the point of liquidation but not vaporization.

I am never more impressed with my peers than when the proverbial shit seems to be hitting the fan. I am proud to be one of them.

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