Grief, from the Flight Crew’s Perspective

Loss of a loved one will touch almost all of us at some point in our lives. And following close on the heels of loss is grief. As an air ambulance provider that transfers critically ill and injured individuals, our team members encounter some level of grief on a daily basis.

So how do our flight crews cope with patients and the family members who are grieving for their loved ones? Two of our critical care flight nurses share their experience…

When dealing with patients who are terminally ill, Angel MedFlight’s Chaleece Caldwell, RN, a Flight Nurse for more than 35 years says, “It’s important to listen rather than talk and to let the patient direct what things they can control, like what position they want to be in, fluids, food, etc. In this way they retain some control of their lives.”

Most of the time, says Chaleece, the patient and family members are not looking for advice. “I offer the opportunity for them to talk when they want to. I make myself available to listen, provide small comforts and ask what they would like me to do for them. It’s important to recognize that each person has their own way of coping or processing the end of life stage. Therefore, I treat people with compassion; understanding that there may be sadness or there may not be. This all depends on what stage they are in of the grieving process.”

Lois Turner, RN, MSN/Ed, a Flight Nurse for 32 years, also uses the insight gleaned from her own personal experience with grief in the loss of both of her parents. Lois says, “If you have strong religious or spiritual beliefs, seek out help in that area. Talk to the person who you are losing; they may be just as uneasy as you are. I involve Hospice. It doesn’t mean your loved one is dying tomorrow. They have autonomy and can teach you to help family members understand.” Lois also shares her own experience with family losses with her patients and family members.

It’s the little things that our flight medical crews do in the moment are the most comforting. “I ask them open-ended questions and ask them if they want to help with the care of their loved one: cover with a blanket, hold their hand and talk to them.” These small gestures during a medical flight comfort both the family member and the patient, says Lois.

At Angel MedFlight we provide the safest, most comfortable and most compassionate air ambulance experience for our patients and their loved ones. By offering compassion and comfort to those patients and their loved ones working through the grief process, we strive to make a difference in air ambulance care. Up close and personal with loss and grief, we provide patients and families care, comfort and a listening ear.

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