It’s safe to say a typical day in the office for Bree Robarge is usually anything but. One moment she could be fast asleep and the next she could be airborne with a medical crew, intubating a patient and making life saving decisions in the blink of an eye.
We recently had the opportunity to catch up with Bree, who received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) at Chamberlain’s Phoenix campus and learned how she discovered flight nursing, what keeps her motivated and what helped prepare her for this unpredictable and exciting career.
What led you to a career in flight nursing?
I was working in an intensive care unit (ICU) in fixed wing transport for two and a half years. In this role, I helped to transport patients to different hospitals around the world. I went from hospital to hospital on interfaculty calls but I wanted more of a challenge. Now I get to go on scene and do more things like medics on the ground would do. It’s more hands on.
What’s a typical day like for you?
I work 24 hour shifts from 7:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. I’ll come in at 6:30 and debrief on what happened in the previous shift before going to the helicopter and checking the monitor and ventilator. In flight nursing, you have the same capabilities as you would in an ICU. Flight nurses can intubate, do rapid sequence intubation and put in chest tubes. When we aren’t on a call, we are usually studying or working on continuing education.
What are some challenges within this specialty?
Thinking on your feet. Sometimes you need to make a two-second decision and then stick with your decisions and be okay with those decisions. Also, learning the whole medic side of things can be challenging. When you’re a nurse in the hospital you have all the supplies you need in that hospital. Sometimes when you’re out in the field you don’t have everything you need but you still need to make it work.
What is the most rewarding part of flight nursing?
Getting patient follow-up and knowing you did something to help that patient. Knowing that you made that difference in someone’s life.
What would make someone a good fit for this specialty?
You need to love what you do and have a passion for what you do. You should feel challenged. I go to work every shift excited to be there.
How did Chamberlain help you prepare for this career?
In clinicals, the professors encouraged us to try things we were interested in, even if we weren’t initially given the opportunity to do so. For example, if you had a patient who is going to surgery, and you want to learn more about surgery, don’t be afraid to ask if you can go into surgery.
They also advised us on the importance of building your network and keeping connections. Almost every job I’ve gotten has been through to word of mouth.
What words of advice would you give someone who is considering a career in flight nursing?
Get experience on a medical-surgical floor first. Planning patient care, having patients and organizing meds is a lot of work and it’s important to get the basics of nursing down. After that, go to a specialty like the emergency room (ER) or ICU. Nurses in both the ER and ICU run their own ventilators, so this will help prepare them for when they are in flight and don’t have respiratory therapists available.
By Kari Lawrence
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