When he completed his final flight nurse mission Dec. 26 before retiring, Tom Grubbs, BSN, RN, EMT-P, had cataloged nearly 6,000 flights and saved thousands of lives, according to a Dec. 25, 2015, article in the Tennessean.
It’s a milestone not many flight nurses reach, said Lis Henley, BSN, RN, EMT, director of Vanderbilt LifeFlight, where Grubbs served from 1984 until his recent retirement.
“For many flight nurses, reaching 1,000 patient flights is a career highlight,” Henley said in a Dec. 15 article published by the Journal of Emergency Medical Services.
“To reach almost 6,000 is probably more than anyone else in civilian flight nursing history,” Henley said in the article. “Tom has been a true lifesaver to so many people and touched so many lives.”
Grubbs, 62, began his flight nursing career when it was a relatively new field for civilian nurses. Today, Vanderbilt LifeFlight has transported more than 35,000 patients using six helicopters in parts of Tennessee, southern Kentucky and northern Alabama.
Grubbs told Tennessean reporter Jessica Bliss that having such a long career in such an intense field is humbling. “We’ve got some really brilliant, life-saving people out there,” Grubbs said in the Tennessean article.
Grubbs has been a registered nurse for 35 years and a licensed EMS provider for 41 years. He received his BSN in nursing from the University of Alabama in Huntsville in 1990.
The first documented medevac by helicopter occurred during World War II, and in 1947, the first civilian air ambulance in North America was established in Canada, according to the Mercy Flight website. Today, hundreds of operations are run across the country, with RNs and EMTs working together on the flights.
“The medical and technical advances in nursing and emergency medicine have been amazing over the last 40 years,” Grubbs said in the Tennnessean article. “But you can’t ever forget that human touch. As a flight nurse we are spending time with people in what is probably some of the worst moments of their life.”
Common prerequisites for becoming a flight nurse include being registered in the state of practice, having two to three years of cricitcal care and ER nursing experience, earning basic and advanced and pediatric life support certificates and becoming a certified flight registered nurse, according to the Air & Surface Transport Nurses Association.