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Chris McGrath, at right, wheels a patient to the waiting UNC Air Care helicopter.
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One of Carolina Air Care's two helicopters comes in for a landing at Chatham Hospital in Siler City, N.C.
Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012
Written by Nathan Clendenin for UNC Health Care
Flying along with the Carolina Air Care team has been on my bucket list since we started producing the RN: Real Nurses series. I guess there's something about the mixture of a high pressure, time-sensitive situation with flying and landing on top of buildings in a helicopter that excites me!
When I met Chris McGrath, a Certified Flight Registered Nurse for Carolina Air Care, I knew I was in good hands. After co-producer Stephen and I interviewed him I had the thought, "If I had a terrible accident of some sort, this is one of the guys I'd want to be on the scene to pick me up." Chris is a former Army medic, so at first he is a little intimidating, but he quickly reveals a super friendly attitude and a passion for saving lives.
During my day with the Air Care team, I learned some interesting things about what Flight Nurses do. First, their helicopters are equipped with much of the same equipment as an ICU ward in a hospital. They use this specialized equipment to perform life-saving procedures to keep patients stable in transport. This means that they can do things that most nurses in hospitals are not trained or often authorized to do.
Second, you won't see a Flight Nurse running or scurrying around like what you expect to see (thanks to Hollywood). Safety always comes first. Before transporting a patient, landing at a trauma scene, or on top of a hospital, the Carolina Air Care team ensures that everything can be done to the highest safety standards. So they take their time to ensure that no detail has been overlooked before they get to work.
Finally, a Flight Nurse has got to be ready to go at the instant a call comes in from dispatch. That means that when they are on call, they often spend nights sleeping at their base, ready to jump into a helicopter, airplane, or ambulance within minutes if necessary. McGrath says, "You've got to take it as it comes and always be ready for what's next."
Besides his work saving patients, Chris also enjoys research. He's been the primary investigator on two research projects involving emergency medical care, transport, and accident prevention. For more information on his research, read this article.
I thank Chris and the Carolina Air Care team for letting me ride along with them. Enjoy this month's RN: Real Nurses video. I hope you enjoy the ride as much as I did.