Elizabeth Bellipanni always wanted to become a nurse.
After graduating from Indianola Academy, she did just that, coming back home to work at South Sunflower County Hospital in her hometown.
Earlier this year, however, she took her profession to a new level, becoming a flight nurse.
The E-T caught up with Bellipanni recently to talk about her new job in the air.
The E-T: How did you become involved in the nursing profession? At what point did you realize this was going to be a career?
Bellipanni: I always wanted to be a nurse. There was never a question about what I wanted to do when I grew up.
The E-T: You worked for SSCH. Describe what it was like to be able to come back and serve your home community.
Bellipanni: I loved serving my community at SSCH ER. I have gotten to know so many great people in our town that I would’ve never known without my career.
Working for your hometown can make jobs easier, but at the same time challenging. It’s taught me patience and understanding; empathy and grace; and the realization that as long as we give our best effort to show those qualities, even when the outcomes are not ideal, to know I’m serving and giving that back to the ones I know and love is what matters most.
The E-T: What are some of the things you did at SSCH? What departments did you work in?
Bellipanni: I worked the emergency room, which has always been my love. I had wonderful coworkers who taught me so much. The ER is truly a team effort, and that was how we operated. We all helped each other. It just worked out better that way.
The E-T: How did you become interested in becoming a flight nurse?
Bellipanni: I have always been fascinated with the idea of being part of the helicopter crew and taking care of critical patients.
When I was a little girl, my dad would always bring me to the bank to watch the helicopter take off.
It has always been a desire of mine to be the person caring for the patient on the helicopter.
The E-T: Obviously there are differences in being a flight nurse and working in a hospital environment. What are some differences that maybe you weren’t expecting?
Bellipanni: There are a lot of differences working in EMS than working in the hospital environment. In the emergency room setting, the nurse follows the physician’s orders and has other departments, such as respiratory, to perform tasks and skills.
As part of the med crew on the helicopter, nurses are now part of the pre-hospital team and we are trained to make split-second decisions while following company protocols. We are essentially a flying ER.
The E-T: Describe your role on the flight?
Bellipanni: On every flight, there’s a pilot, nurse, and paramedic.
My role on the flight is the flight nurse.
The call will either be for an interfacility transfer or a scene flight. A scene flight is requested by the ground EMS crew who evaluates the situation and decides that the patient would have the best outcome with rapid transport to a trauma center. An interfacility transfer is when a hospital needs quick critical care transport to get the patient to a higher level of care.
The med crew provides constant monitoring throughout the flight and administers medications and performs life saving skills as needed.
We are in contact with the receiving facility while enroute to update them on the patient‘s condition so they will be prepared when we land.
We do multiple safety checks as a team before every take off and every landing. Safety is a top priority. We come back home every time!
The E-T: Give us an idea of the schedule you work. Obviously, you could get that call at anytime to fly out.
Bellipanni: We work 24 hour shifts and can get a call at any hour of the day or night. Seeing the sunrise from the air is a unique experience.
The E-T: What advice would you give to nurses who may be looking at going in the flight nurse direction?
Bellipanni: If you want to become a flight nurse, my advice is to go for it.
There is a lot of studying and preparation during the orientation process, but everyone is so helpful and nice.
Everyone wants us to succeed. It truly is such a fun, challenging, and rewarding job. The sky is the limit!