Kris Halliwell BS, BSN, RN, NRP, CCRN, CFRN, TCRN
Why did you become a transport nurse?
Transport medicine is something that I have always done. After working EMS full-time for almost 10 years before becoming a nurse, transport nursing was a return to where I had started. In addition to the familiarity, I wanted the challenge and autonomy that only flight nursing can bring.
What is it about your job that you enjoy?
I enjoy the challenge and the variety. The "pop-quiz" aspect of this job demands a walking knowledge of medicine that requires more preparation than an average job in nursing. It is the fear of being dropped into a situation that my partner and I can't think our way out of that keeps me on guard to "what I may not know."
How did you become a flight nurse?
I became a flight nurse when I was ready-which is not to say when I thought I was ready. By that I mean I completely bombed my first interview for a hospital-based flight team. I thought I was ready, a paramedic with CCRN and a handful of years in STICU/ CVICU. Boy was I wrong. It was the best experience in my professional career. To be told I was wrong, to learn that I didn't know what I didn't know, and that despite being good at one or two aspects of medicine, I was not ready for the next transition. It was hard, but a great life lesson. I learned from that interview how I could change my mind-set to be more autonomous and practice safe, aggressive medicine with what my experiences taught me. I took the time to really understand the medicine rather than regurgitate it. This made me a stronger provider for my next interview at another hospital-based program (a few years later). I nailed the interview and my transition to flight with a background in ICU and paramedicine served me well. I tell people that blowing that interview was the best thing that ever happened to me.
What do you enjoy in your free time?
I enjoy being at home with my wife and children on our mountainous, bucolic property in Vermont. Life is what happens when you are busy making plans, and I don't want to miss those good times at home. We see so much in our jobs in healthcare and I don't want to take "life" for granted by not being a part of something bigger than myself. That something is my family, and I everything I do is for them.
Fun fact about you?
I hate IPA's and wouldn't drink one if you bought it for me.
Why did you become an ASTNA member?
I became an ASTNA member at first because of the membership discounts for CFRN and TPATC. I maintained it after because I wanted to support the organization that represents me and my interests in the industry. I became involved with ASTNA because I wanted to be a force of positive change and influence on issues and trends that I saw developing.
Can you share a time when you felt especially proud to work as a flight nurse?
I have been very fortunate to have worked with some highly skilled paramedics and nurses. Throughout the course of my career, my partners and I have been placed in scenarios where we were able to deploy optimal care and interventions for people that resulted in profound impacts on their lives. It is those rare instances when you know that your team made a difference that keep you going. Also, I think any job where you can make a child thrilled because the "helicopter nurse or medic" took the time to say hi, give a sticker, or just acknowledge them is pretty neat.
Describe the ideal partner/flight crew member.
I have two types of ideal partner. The first is someone who is so on the ball the only thing they need me for is to carry bags or hand them things because they are so squared away. The second is someone who at the end of the shift I still wouldn't mind catching a beer or bourbon with.
Do you have a patient / transport that you feel changed/impacted how you care for your patients today? Can you relay that story?
In twenty years of transporting patients between EMS and CCT, they all tend to shape and mold you. From the bread and butter calls to complex, co-morbid, medical-science-fiction turned reality patients, to the ones that sneak up on you that you will never really forget. If you don't walk away with having learned something or appreciated some aspect of that interaction or transport then it was a loss. This job is a privileged at times, and sometimes you should sit back and appreciate all that has led up to it, all that you've done to get there, and what life has in store moving forward.