In our annual HealthLeaders 20, we profile individuals who are changing healthcare for the better. Some are longtime industry fixtures; others would clearly be considered outsiders. Some are revered; others would not win many popularity contests. All of them are playing a crucial role in making the healthcare industry better. This is the story of Jeanne Yeatman, MBA, BSN, CEN, EMT.
This profile was published in the December, 2011 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.
"If [paramedics] know what happens in the helicopter, they can better prepare the next patient."
Coping with the emotional connection to patients is one of the biggest challenges nurses who work at Vanderbilt LifeFlight and similar air-medical programs face nationwide, says Vanderbilt LifeFlight Program Director Jeanne Yeatman, MBA, BSN, CEN, EMT.
"You are invited into people's lives at their worst moments, so you become emotionally connected to the patients that you serve," she explains. "When you see someone with burns over 90% of their body who is talking with you and you know that you are the last person they will talk to, there is no training for that—no book on what to say. That emotional wear and tear is difficult."
MedEvac helicopters are most often used to transport patients who are gravely injured from severe trauma or suffering from time-sensitive illnesses such as heart attacks and strokes. Each year, MedEvac helicopters transport approximately 400,000 patients and MedEvac planes transport roughly 100,000 patients over longer distances, according to the Association of Air Medical Services. Roughly 46.7 million Americans live more than one hour away from a Level 1 or 2 trauma center.
As a young child, Yeatman's interest in emergency medicine was piqued after she witnessed an air-medical transport when a neighborhood child was injured. After graduating nursing school in 1989, she secured a position working at Vanderbilt Medical Center's emergency department in Nashville, where she witnessed LifeFlight nurses in action. "I got to see some of the amazing things that they got to do," she says. "So, LifeFlight, for me, was a natural progression of my career."