Case, Hospital Pioneer Flight Nurse Training

By THOMAS J. SHEERAN, Associated Press Writer

CLEVELAND (AP) - Case Western Reserve University and Ohio's busiest trauma hospital announced plans Tuesday to create a pioneering program to train medical helicopter nurses.

With the advanced training, "We're putting critical care at the roadside, rather than the bedside," said Dr. William F. Fallon Jr., trauma director of the co-sponsor, Cleveland's MetroHealth Medical Center.

Case said it would be the nation's first degree program for teaching flight nursing as a specific specialty. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing was unaware of any similar degree program, spokesman Robert Rosseter said.

To this point, flight nurses have generally been hospital nurses who join a helicopter team and learn specialized techniques in the field, from colleagues and in some cases trial and error, said

Debbie Joseph spokeswoman for Case's Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing.

The new two-year program will lead to a master's degree in acute care nursing, with emphasis on flight nursing.

It will teach skills like inserting breathing tubes and checking for internal bleeding in the unpredictable conditions of a rescue operation in a cramped, fast-moving helicopter. It will also provide education in medical research and other areas that someone trained in the field would not be exposed to, Joseph said.

While Metro's flight crews already include a nurse and doctor, backers said the program will enhance on-board nursing skills. In addition, it will provide advanced training for flight teams elsewhere that operate without doctors aboard.

Carolyn Nieman, 38, of Avon, a nurse for 15 years and a flight nurse with Metro's Life Flight service for five years, has enrolled in the program.

"It complements my skills. It gives me that extra training," Nieman said after the news conference, which was held at a campus athletic field that once served as a medical helicopter landing site.

Christopher Manacci, a Metro Life Flight nurse, narrated a demonstration of a helicopter rescue, using a mannequin patient strapped to a stretcher aboard a yellow and blue twin-engine Sikorsky helicopter.

Even with a doctor and nurse aboard every Life Flight helicopter, having both trained in critical procedures allows a patient to be treated from the left and right sides, Fallon said afterward.

About 3,000 patients a year are flown to MetroHealth, which has Ohio's busiest trauma unit for emergency cases, Fallon said. About 36 percent of the patients flown to MetroHealth are trauma victims, including car-wreck victims, and 30 percent are medical-surgical emergencies, with the rest including heart patients and burn victims.

Metro Life Flight works with 65 hospitals in Ohio and bases its four helicopters in Cleveland, suburban Solon and Canton.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)