Local News

Duke Life Flight nurses bring vital care to the air

Posted May 9, 2018 8:09 a.m. EDT

— National Nurses Week highlights the role nurses play in the health care system, but a group of nurses at Duke University have an especially unique job: bringing care to the air.

Duke Life Flight nurses treat patients while in a helicopter. The space is small and the timing urgent, but the nurses in the back of the chopper can do everything an intensive care unit at a hospital can do.

Life Flight nurse Samantha Slowinski said she had to go through extra training to work in the air, but she said the job comes with the same rewards as a nurse working on solid ground.

"Nursing in general is just such an amazing career," Slowinski said. "You bring together science and medicine and compassion. Flight nursing, for me, is all of those things up in the air, and having that thrill of experiencing the world in a different way than most people get to."

Duke Life Flight, which was founded in 1985, serves the entire state of North Carolina and parts of Virginia. The crew transports more than 900 patients by helicopter each year and another 3,000 patients by ground.

The program began with just one helicopter but has grown to two choppers, 10 ambulances and 85 staff.

"I have to be prepared to be at any specific place, whether it be the road (or) a different hospital," Slowinski said. "Whatever I have on my back or on my person is what I have to take to that patient. I can't call and ask someone to run down to the other room to grab me something.

"Planning. There's a lot of pre-planning that goes with it."