NORFOLK -- For over a quarter of a century, Nightingale has made it possible for accident victims in critical condition to reach the hospital in record time in order to have complex injuries addressed immediately.
Joe trained with Janice McKay, a 19-year veteran flight nurse for Nightingale.
"Always expect the unexpected. No matter what call you are going to, think of the worst thing that can possibly happen, and if it doesn't that's good, because you are prepared," said McKay.
There is always a paramedic aboard Nightingale. Chet Flemming retired from the Norfolk Fire Department after 25 years and has been a paramedic on Nightingale for 23 years.
The pilot is John Stanley.
Joe and the crew took part in a mass casualty drill at Kings Fork High School in Suffolk. Joe was right there as his team prepped a gurney to pick up an injured person. You can't do this job without training, experience and certifications.
"Nightingale works with a paramedic nurse team. The paramedics have to have five years of active street paramedic experience. They are bringing their skills of street work, and I have the skills of the hospitals, so we really compliment each other," McKay said.
This $7 million helicopter is state of the art and they have a range of 125 miles but can fly further if need be. As the crew transported their patient Joe said he felt the sense of teamwork.
"You know the medical crew, I am just a glorified ambulance driver and take them there and bring them back, but I feel like I have a part in it too," said pilot John Stanley.
The work is all about safety, commitment and caring for the patient. That's the kind of person it takes to work this job in a regional air ambulance.
"You need someone who is mature and able to make good, sound decisions, have critical thinking skills and you have to be able to get yourself out of a box," said McKay.
Prior to landing, Nightingale alerted the hospital. Many times, the essential part has already been done, as in processing someone's medical condition on location.
"Typically, we notify them five minutes out. That gives them time to activate the trauma team and get them ready to receive the patient," said Flemming.
"A lot of us have longevity here just because the safety of the program, how it's managed and we like what we do," McKay said.
Joe says the team is highly trained, focused and dedicated. The experience was all a drill, but as soon as it ended Chet and Janice had a call and were off to Franklin on a real mission.