by Vickie Jenkins, Staff Writer
If you are looking for Michelle Humphrey, RN, CFRN, you might find her in a helicopter above the city, working full time as a flight nurse for Medilflight 5, or you might find her at her part-time job, at Stillwater Medical Center, caring for patients in the ER. “While I like working in the ER, I absolutely love being a flight nurse,” Michelle said. “There is so much independence and autonomy outside of the hospital setting, and I would say that is what I like the most about flight nursing. Also, I work with people that have truly become family to me. They are some of the best clinicians that I have ever met and would trust them with the lives of my children without hesitation. I will continue to be a flight nurse until I have to be pushed to the helicopter in a wheelchair,” she said with a laugh.
Growing up in a small town in Southeast Missouri, when Michelle was a little girl, she thought she would be a veterinarian. “My mom was an LPN and I remember her telling me, You know, you should be a nurse and go to nursing school! At the time, I was no where ready and actually told her, you couldn’t pay me enough to do what you do.”
Times change. Michelle received her bachelors degree in animal science and agriculture economics from the University of Missouri and attended nursing school at Northern Oklahoma College in Stillwater.
Asking Michelle how she got interested in being a flight nurse, she replied, “It truly was my calling. I was working as a phlebotomist at St. Francis shortly after moving to Oklahoma. One day, while walking to my car, I saw a Tulsa life Flight helicopter land, and suddenly, I was hooked! I knew at that instant that being a flight nurse was what I was supposed to be doing with my life. I guess you could say that I was in the right place at the right time.”
“There are three people on the flight; one pilot, one nurse and one paramedic. We take care of critically ill and injured patients that we pick up at scenes such as motor vehicle and motorcycle crashes, industrial accidents, etc. and anything outside of the hospital you can image. We also transfer patients from smaller hospitals with few capabilities to definitive care. During these transports, we do certain procedures as needed; intubation, chest compressions, surgical and needle cricothyrotomy, chest tubes, etc. We can initiate and manage drips as needed, as well as provide pain management and sedation. We also do a lot of ventilator management and can give blood products if the patients condition requires us to do so, “ Michelle explained.
“Being a flight nurse requires some extra training. Prior to flying, there are a LOT of classes and certifications that are required. ACLS, PALS, BLS, TNCC, NRP just to name a few. We also have to have a specialty certification within two years of hire, and that can be CEN, CCRN or CFRN. Once hired, we are constantly doing training and education on trauma care, airway and ventilator management, pharmacology and flight operations,” Michelle commented.
Mediflight 5 travels as far north as Wichita and as far south as Dallas and everywhere in-between. Michelle says that her biggest reward that she gets from her job is knowing without a doubt that there are people alive today because of what she and her partner did for them. “Also, when I am able to make someone smile or laugh on what might very well be the worse day of their life, that just makes my day,” Michelle said.
Michelle’s advice for someone going into the medical field, would be, “Make sure you are doing it for the right reasons. Learn everything you can and be a sponge at every given opportunity. Study to be good at what you do, not to pass a test. I guarantee that someone’s life will depend on it someday. Also, be humble. Your job is important but is no more important than anyone else in healthcare.”
When Michelle is not working, on the ground or in the air, she likes to spend time with her two kids, Conner, sixteen and Chelsea who is fourteen. Michelle’s hobbies include reading, trying new recipes and keeping busy with her rescued Treeing Walker Coonhound.
Summing up her life in one word Michelle said, “Non-stop.”