Alisha Burnett, BSN RN CFRN CCRN EMT-P
Why did you become a transport nurse?
Long story short, I became a nurse after I lost a close friend to burns. I started my career in a burn ICU, then moved into trauma and became interested in flying. I was then introduced to the flight nurse who flew my friend and realized everything happens for a reason, and things were coming around full circle. I knew I was meant to fly.
What is it about your job that you enjoy?
I don’t think there’s anything I don’t enjoy! But if I had to pick one thing, it would be the interpersonal relationships I have developed with my crewmembers, ground EMS crews, and hospital staff. You start getting familiar with crews and different people, and it really makes every single day enjoyable seeing people you know and trust, who have mutual feelings.
How did you become a transport nurse?
I heard of an opening in a then local flight program that almost never had staff turnover. I just barely met the requirements, but I applied, was granted an interview. I worked my tail off to prepare and study for the written and practical test I had to take, as well as preparing myself for the panel interview. It was the same program that flew my friend mentioned above, and I again knew I had to chase my dreams. There was no option for failure!
What do you enjoy in your free time?
I have an amazing husband (who is also a flight nurse), and together we have 3 fur babies and an almost 2 year old son. So I really enjoy doing things with them. I also really enjoy golfing (even though I’m terrible!!) and planning. Yes, I have very fancy planners J.
Fun fact about you?
I love to sing! I was state ranked in high school for sopranos, and also held lead roles in my high school musicals.
Why did you become an ASTNA member?
I crave continuing education and furthering my professional life. I became an ASTNA member so I would have to up to date information regarding news in the transport environment, as well as for information on conferences and continuing education available.
Can you share a time when you felt especially proud to work as a transport nurse?
I’ll describe the flight in more detail below, but a few months after flying an extremely critical patient, I was invited to an honorary dinner he and his family held for his health care team. This was probably the highlight of my nursing career in general. Seeing him doing so well, and being able to meet him family a second time in a much less tense situation changed my life.
Describe the ideal partner/flight crew member.
My ideal flight partner would be someone who is just as in love with the job as I am. Someone who continually pushes themselves to be better, to learn more, and to provide the best possible care to patients. Someone with a strong EMS background and sound airway skills. Someone who has a great sense of humor and can remain calm in the toughest of situations. Fortunately, I work on a regular basis at my current program with so many people who fit this description!
Do you have a patient / transport that you feel changed/impacted how you care for your patients today? Can you relay that story?
When I was still flying back in NY (I am now in Florida), we flew a severely burned electrician who was contracting at a local hospital. He experienced a flash burn combined with electrical burns while working on the hospital. When we walked into the ER, there were easily 75 people in a 10 bed ER as this was not something they dealt with since they were a small community ER. The staff was doing an amazing job, but unfortunately the patient’s family was in some way forgotten. After doing our initial assessments, I asked my partner if I could take some time to speak with the family. This patient was incredibly sick, and we knew time was of the essence. But, it was also a priority that I spoke with the family. I have personally experienced what they were feeling, and I knew I had to provide even the smallest amount of support if I could. I knew the possibility of the patient arresting was significantly high, and I had to give them time to see their loved one. After explaining what their loved one looked like, I took the time to move away as much equipment as I could so they could gain access to the patient. I encouraged them to tell them they loved him and would see him soon. I encouraged them to touch where they could. To take a few minutes with him alone before we left with him.
In flight, he was sick. We never stopped moving. The 45-minute flight to the sending facility was a race against the clock. We did everything we could for him in that time, and were so relieved he stabilized by the time we dropped him off. Not only did I utilize my experience with burn patients, and my critical care and flight knowledge, but also I knew I had made a difference for that family utilizing personal experience. As important as it is that we get patients to where they need to go, and fast, it as just as important to provide support and answer questions for the family. We MUST remember that we are not only caring for the patient, but this is likely the scariest time EVER for the patient’s family as well. It is imperative we take the time with these families, and allow them to see the patient and tell them they love them. After meeting the patient and the family a few months later, and hearing how I was able to comfort them, my career was changed. I have never felt so proud of being a flight nurse. Unfortunately, as flight crew members, we rarely see the family or patient after dropping them off at the receiving facility. We are the care team members behind the scenes that go unnoticed. In this case, we were remembered, and we were able to see what a difference our care made. I will never, ever forget that flight. The most rewarding part of this story is having made lifelong friends, whom I still keep in touch with, even after moving out of state. For every terrible loss we face, there is one amazing experience that will keep us pushing through to help the next patient.