Carolina Air Care Expands Growth

A little over two years ago, UNC Carolina Air Care launched a new orientation program that was more intense, more efficient, and got new recruits off the ground sooner. The new program recently celebrated its 100th orientation.

Carolina Air Care Expands Growth click to enlarge Photo by Max Englund/UNC Health Care

In February of 2015, Christian Lawson, director of emergency services, tasked the brand new education manager, Josh Compton, with overhauling the education and orientation program at Carolina Air Care to prepare for a expansion of services and a hiring push to meet growing demand.

The expansion of the staff was necessary to meet the ever-growing need for Air Care's services across, and the revision of the orientation program gave Compton the opportunity to improve the quality and consistency of education for both new hires and for those making the transition from ground positions to flight positions.

The previous program for orienting nurses, paramedics and respiratory therapists to critical care transport consisted of about 20 weeks of clinical rotations and field internships that relied heavily on the volume of transports to gain experience. Some orientations could last up to 30 weeks waiting on high acuity transports. Overhauling the orientation system allowed Compton and his team to address the lingering issue that led to these extended orientation periods

Compton, and Leanne Reaves, flight nurse and orientation coordinator, remodeled the orientation process and developed a Critical Care Transport Ground School that included didactic critical care transport training, clinical unit rotations, and field internships. In addition to these changes, the program utilized high-fidelity simulations for pre-hire assessments and to supplement high acuity transport volumes.

During Carolina Air Care's re-accreditation visit in 2015, they reported a 50 percent success rate in orientation but had already begun to see the improvements. With this new model, new leadership, and an outstanding education team, Carolina Air Care has completed its 100th orientation in the past two years with a 30 percent increase in orientation success and a decrease of average orientation time to 12 weeks.

With 100 new orientations in just two years, the new program has been able to sustain a volume that is unprecedented for the department.

Carolina Air Care has enjoyed the support of Nursing Professional Development, UNC School of Medicine Clinical Skills and Patient Simulation Center, UNC Trauma Services, the UNC Stroke Program, and Durham Technical Community College, where they have been provided with the space to conduct this program. The Carolina Air Care education department operates its training program under the motto, "Training with Purpose."

They have begun the process of taking parts of this training to other EMS agencies and outside hospitals around the state, because they believe in the benefit of high fidelity simulation and training with purpose.