Flight nurses take care of a spectrum of patients, so there is a lot of extra certifications and continuing medical education that all of the flight crews have to acquire, says Yeatman. For example, the minimum requirements to be a Vanderbilt LifeFlight nurse include: three years of ED/critical care experience, more than 640 hours of pediatric experience, emergency medical technician certification, and either certified critical care nurse, certification in emergency nursing, or certified flight registered nurse training, among other requirements.
Yet one area that flight nurses usually aren't trained on is compassion fatigue, says Yeatman.
"In the beginning, no one had that conversation with me and said 'when you go home and lash out at your family, it might be related to the job,'" explains Yeatman, who started her career as a flight nurse in 1993. "It is something that people don't like to talk about," she says, adding that the people who gravitate toward this profession have take-charge personalities.
They believe they can manage anything. But there needs to be more self awareness in the industry regarding compassion fatigue, she says. "Each person is impacted in a different way and it changes depending on where you are in life."
To help her staff of more than 150 professionals who average more than 3,000 trips annually cope with the daily rigors of the job, Yeatman has tried to build a level of self awareness about the acuity of patients that LifeFlight transports. For example, when a flight crew has performed CPR or there has been a patient death, Yeatman has found chaplain Ray Nell Dyer, MDiv, BCC, from Vanderbilt Children's Hospital who is willing to volunteer her time and reach out to that crew and offer emotional support.