It was May 1984. A 70-year-old woman critically injured in a car
accident in Santa Cruz County became Stanford
Life Flight's inaugural mission. With that flight, Life Flight
became the first helicopter emergency services program in the Bay
Area; and Stanford Hospital & Clinics became the first medical
center in this region to have its own helicopter and air medical
Thirty years and many thousands of flights later, Life Flight has a
proud history to celebrate this month. It has a flight crew with years
of experience whose attitudes explain why Life Flight is still going
strong. A number of the flight nurses have been on board for years,
even decades. "We are always moving forward," said David
Bevin, RN, a twenty year veteran. "There is always some new technology."
To be considered for this crew requires not only years of
experience, but also many clinical qualifications and solid
interpersonal skills. Life Flight nurses maintain their expertise
through ongoing training and continuing education. Most of the nurses
have advanced certifications in flight nursing and critical care
specialties, and several have graduate degrees. Flight nurses also
assist when needed with trauma alerts in the Emergency Department and
help in the intensive care units with advanced procedures, such as
arterial lines and intubations.
"It's a very collaborative, team-centered approach," said
Geralyn Martinez, RN, a Life Flight nurse since 1990. "Our job
has evolved greatly over the years."
That technology Bevin mentioned touches almost every part of what
Life Flight does. It now has a faster, larger helicopter than its
first model with medical equipment that is compact, lightweight and
rugged. Stanford Life Flight is the only flight program in Northern
California to be able to transport critically ill cardiac patients who
need advanced equipment such as an intra-aortic balloon pump. Its
helicopter is equipped with instrument-aided flight capability to make
transport in inclement weather safer. The crew also wear night vision
goggles for all nighttime flights to aid visibility and improve safety.
"Stanford has always been regarded as one of the premier
programs in the state, if not the country," said Life Flight's
program manager Michael Baulch, RN, JD. "We've seen the
technology change over time but Stanford has kept its focus on safety
and on the best use of this very expensive asset."
Beneath all the technology and specialized training, however,
remains the power of a calming voice. "A patient wrote me a very
nice letter to say thanks," Bevin said, "because I leaned
over her and said, 'You're going to be okay. You're hurting a bit, but
you're going to make it to Stanford." Stanford Life Flight looks
forward to celebrating many future anniversaries and helping patients
and communities for generations to come.