Vickie Jenkins, Staff Writer
There is something very interesting about Tulsa Life Flight/Air Methods Corp. that stands out from the rest of the flight services. Tulsa Life Flight was the first Air Ambulance in the state of Oklahoma, originating in 1979. They have been serving Oklahoman’s safely for over forty years.
Tulsa Life Flight is somewhat a trend setter. They were the first to be able to administer blood products pre- hospital, which is probably thirty plus years ago. This is just now becoming a popular standard for air ambulances and has participated in many research studies to improve pre-hospital care. (story continues below)
One particular nurse that is truly a remarkable woman is Teresa Snell. Her titles include Masters in Business Admin-Healthcare focus, Bachelor Degree in Nursing Science, Certified Flight Registered Nurse, and Nationally Registered Paramedic. She is the area manager for the flight team and she oversees about thirty employees; Pilots, Aviation Mechanics, Nurses and medics. Teresa has been a nurse for thirty-four years, and a flight nurse since 1999.
“I am a nurse because I love helping people. Caring for someone in the worst moments in their life becomes a skill in itself,” Teresa commented. “It was in 1987 that my sister was a patient that was flown in. She was thrown from a horse onto a fence post and had a grade 4 liver laceration and because of the team at Tulsa Life Flight, she is still here today. Seeing the skill and compassion of the team, I was awestruck with the way they operated, yet remained composed and compassionate in the worst situations,” she explained. “From that moment on, I did a ride along and I was hooked! I knew that was what I wanted to do.”
Growing up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Teresa knew from an early age that she wanted to be a nurse. “I was fourteen years old when my Father had a debilitating car accident and I saw how much he suffered and how much the nurses cared for him. I was certain that I would be a nurse,” Teresa said.
Teresa attended Northeastern Oklahoma A&M for her ADN and OKWU for her BSN and MBA. She went to paramedic training with Houston Fire Rescue to be a better flight nurse. “It is hard to pluck an RN out of a box of a hospital, ER or ICU with all the resources available and put them in the field, on the side of the highway or in a ditch with an upside down care and expect them to be able to operate with one partner, without some idea of the pre-hospital care enviroment,” Teresa commented.
Teresa believes that the qualities of a nurse should include compassion and empathy for patients, and high skill levels. “Never stop learning,” is Teresa’s advice. “I cannot just say, do what I do. We need to lead by example.”
What is your biggest reward as a nurse? Seeing someone recover from what could have been a life threatening situation and return to a normal full life, Teresa replied. “My favorite part of my job is supporting my team to make safe, critical decisions that are life saving for those that entrusted us with their care,” she added.
Teresa tells me that Marie Boyer, her Health Careers instructor in Vo-tech her junior and senior year of high school had a big influence on her life. “She was strict, harsh and demanding and now, I know why! To make us better caregivers, and make us follow rules and regulations,” she said with a smile.
Teresa’s typical day at work includes evaluation the previous days performance, reviewing the staffing situation and working to improve and support the team so they can care for others.
Teresa is married and has been with her husband for twenty-two years. “We have twin boys that just turned sixteen and I give the advice, stay off roads!” Teresa said with a laugh. “When the boys ask about getting a motorcycle or wanting to do this or that, I have an immediate response for them, NO! Do you know how many people are killed doing that? “That usually suffices until the next question,” she added. “My hobbies include being outdoors and camping and no matter what others think about flight nurses, in my case, I do not like flying other than on the job.”
“It is my pleasure and privilege to work with such a strong team and care for Oklahomans when they need us most.” -Teresa Snell-