Flight Nursing, Carole Covey, PHI Air Medical
Delivering emergency care on the (rotary) wing
Please tell us about the arc of your career.
I watched my mom live through the challenges of nursing school and begin her career as an ER nurse. She worked night shift, so when I was home from school, I’d take her coffee or food. I’d also sit in the nurses’ station, taking it all in. Little did I know that those times planted a seed and inspired a passion for caring for others, as well as for emergency nursing.
I was originally in school to be a teacher. When I realized what I really wanted, I quit my education degree program, moved home and started on my own nursing path. What a roller coaster! I worked as a tech in a pediatric urgent care clinic prior to nursing school and then transitioned to working in the emergency department as a technician after I completed my EMT-B license.
Once I graduated, I transitioned to the ER. During my three years as an ER nurse, my love of nursing and caring for the sickest of patients grew exponentially. The hands-on aspect of being in the middle of it all is what drew me in.
How did you make the leap into flight nursing?
After completing my EMT-B license prior to nursing school, I had the opportunity to complete a ride-along with PHI Air Medical and fell in love. I knew without a doubt that I wanted to be a flight nurse. Working in the ER, I’d watch helicopters come and go. Interacting with the flight crews fueled my desire for flight nursing. My passion for flying grew every time I saw a helicopter. However, it took me eight long (really long) years to be hired as a flight nurse.
In order to reach my goal, I knew I needed tons of experience and certifications, so I put in ridiculous numbers of hours at work, gaining an incredible amount of knowledge and clinical competency. I challenged myself by studying disease processes and clinical scenarios. I obtained as many certifications as possible, including my paramedic license [NRP], my BSN and my CEN [certified emergency nurse certification].
I was born and raised in the Dallas area, but when I was ready to start my flight career, I applied for every position available with every company throughout the country. In August 2016, I moved halfway across the country to work for PHI Air Medical. I knew they were the safest and had the highest clinical standards. The rest is history. It definitely was not a fast process, but it was absolutely worth the effort.
What inspired you to pursue this specialty?
This may sound corny, but it’s partly knowing that I can be the best part of somebody’s worst day. Flight nursing and ER nursing are often thankless professional paths, but I know that every shift, I can make a difference in somebody’s life. That’s enough gratification for me.
Beyond that, the attraction was really the combination of having to think on my feet and reacting instantly. It’s a lot like my ER experience except that it’s in the air. The aviation side of flying intrigues me as well. (I mean, how cool are helicopters?!)