By Angel MedFlight Contributor
You’re a traditional emergency room nurse transitioning into the air medical transportation wing of the health care world. Nursing and paramedic work on the ground involves the same science, but in air ambulance work, you’re introduced to altitude physiology and new levels of autonomy are reinforced. At Angel MedFlight, that specialized training program is headed by Clinical Educator Matt Greenwell, R.N.
Greenwell’s entry into the emergency medical care field got started after a few words of advice from his mother, a registered nurse. Many years ago, Greenwell was working in the aerospace industry and wasn’t all that thrilled about it so his mother suggested he look into volunteering at a hospital emergency department. The hospital that is now Banner Desert Medical Center in Mesa, Ariz., had an opportunity for him. “I was a volunteer in their ER. I’d go in there one night a week and kind of hang out, have some fun and learn some things and realized that was the direction I wanted to head,” says Greenwell.
With his interest in the medical field piqued, he went back to school to become a basic EMT. From there, Greenwell says he realized then that was just the starting-off point in terms of emergency health care and it “really grabbed a hold of me.” He then went to paramedic school and shortly thereafter he realized that nursing was what he wanted to do. “When you become a paramedic, your choices are primarily either EMS and working on an ambulance or working for the fire service and I had no desire to be a firefighter.”
So it was off to nursing school for Greenwell, who also started working as a paramedic and ER tech at Mesa Lutheran Hospital. “I got my nursing license and they hired me into their emergency department.” After a few years at Mesa Lutheran he returned to Banner Desert and worked several years as a member of their emergency room staff. “It was a very, very busy facility,” Greenwell says, “but as a young aggressive nurse we were into that. It was a very fast-paced ER.”
Ironically, someone who had left the aerospace industry would find himself — working in the air. Greenwell says he had some friends who worked in the air medical industry and one day they invited him to go on a ride-along. He really hadn’t been attracted to air ambulance work but after a couple of helicopter rides, he knew he had found his calling. “I ended up in that arena and flew for a program for a number of years and then got into their education department.”
It was the autonomy Greenwell felt while treating patients in the air made him realize he was in the right place. “As an emergency department nurse we have quite a bit of autonomy but yet we still have the physicians right there to back us up. They clearly make the decisions. In the air medical arena we still have medical direction, we have a number of standing orders and guidelines we follow — but that autonomy is there.
Greenwell began his clinical education work with another company and eventually landed at Angel MedFlight as chief flight nurse. He has since rejoined our team as the clinical educator where he stresses compassion in his training. A patient needing air ambulance transport is obviously going through a difficult time and Greenwell makes certain our medical crew members deliver the highest level of compassion and care. Our flight crews go through quarterly and annual training, both didactic (classroom) and in skills labs.
Why did Greenwell come to Angel MedFlight? “What has impressed me all along is how we really do continue to raise the bar. Our equipment is second to none, I’ve worked for a number of flight programs and we have the best of the best with everything.” Greenwell says when you mix in the company’s training and staff, “it’s a very powerful package.”