Critical care nursing is not for the faint of heart – and Cindy Goodrich is always up for an adventure. She started her career in critical care, eventually transitioned to flight nursing, and also teaches future flight nurses how to navigate the challenges of providing critical care on emergency flights.
For Goodrich, the day-to-day challenges in the skies, as well as the experience of teaching, keep her learning and inspired as a nurse. She’s a speaker at this year’s National Teaching Institute, and she encourages attendees to take advantage of the event – to spread their wings by learning as much as they can.
What inspired you to become a flight nurse?
After practicing as a critical care nurse specialist at Harborview Medical Center, part of the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle, for eight years, I wondered if there was another type of nursing that would challenge me. I was familiar with Airlift Northwest, our flight program associated with the University of Washington. Dr. Michael Copass, Airlift’s medical director at that time, inspired me to apply for this unique and challenging role. The rest is history, and I have been a flight nurse and clinical educator at Airlift Northwest for over 25 years.
What’s it like to work as a flight nurse?
Flight nursing is unique and challenging. I work in an unstructured environment to provide advanced care, encompassing aspects of both critical care and emergency medicine. Our goal is to stabilize and transport patients to definitive care. I fly with another RN and a helicopter pilot during my flight shifts. We are a team and each other’s life lines during our shift together. We care for patients on one of the worst days of their lives. We provide pre-hospital and interfacility critical care using pre-established protocols that have been developed by our medical directors. It’s an awesome job. I tell people I practice critical care at altitude.
What’s something that you have learned as a clinical educator?
That you never stop learning. It’s a lifetime process. I learn something new from my students every day, which is pretty awesome. I love sharing my knowledge and expertise with our new flight nurses.
What’s your advice to anyone interested in flight nursing?
I would tell them that flight nursing is an autonomous and challenging role for experienced critical care nurses. Every day at work is different, and I call on my critical care nursing experience during every critical care transport.
The pandemic has been a challenging time for those of us in the aeromedical transport environment. Transports that used to take two to three hours can now be an eight-hour adventure. Providing care during transport of patients with COVID-19 is complex and ever changing.
Any advice for new nurses right now?
Learn one new thing every day. Embrace every new experience as a way to expand your knowledge and expertise as a critical care nurse. Be a lifetime learner and never stop challenging yourself.
I encourage you to attend new and thought-provoking sessions at NTI. Take advantage of all the opportunities to learn about topics outside your expertise and comfort zone. Be inquisitive and experience all that NTI has to offer.
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