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IECC/OCC Nursing Grad Shares Experience Working as a Flight Nurse

Flight Nurse PhotoAndra Herdes, RN, BSN and CFRN, spoke with Olney Central College’s Student Nurses Association about her work as a flight nurse for Air Evac 28 Lifeteam in Effingham.

A graduate of the Illinois Eastern Community Colleges/OCC Nursing Program, Herdes attended Frontier Community College, earning her Associate’s Degree in Nursing in 2011.

“This is the first time I’ve talked to the students. I really enjoyed it,” said Herdes of Dundas. “A lot of people don’t realize all of the opportunities that are out there in nursing. We, as a company, enjoy working with the public and talking about what we do.”

Herdes first became interested in working as a flight nurse after viewing a video on the subject during an IECC nursing conference at Wabash Valley College.

“I hadn’t thought about it before and it really interested me,” she added.

After graduating, Herdes worked for a year on the medical/surgical floor at Carle Richland Memorial Hospital in Olney.

“I had an opportunity to learn the basics of nursing and how to juggle patient load,” she said.

Herdes then transferred to the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit to gain the three years of critical care experience required for flight nurses. Herdes also applied and was accepted into Air Evac’s fellowship program, which gives registered nurses the opportunity to participate in activities designed in preparation for a career as a flight nurse.

“The people at Base 28 were always there to teach me,” she said. “They took me under their wings and reassured me that this was something I wanted to do. I got to see them at work and to hear their stories. They get to help people on a daily basis.”

When an opening arose for a flight nurse, Herdes applied and was hired for her current position, which she has held for nearly two years.

“I love the fact I get to provide access to care in rural areas,” she said. “As a flight nurse, I can use my nursing skills to their highest ability.”

Herdes works 24-hour shifts every other day and then has a week off. She also continues to serve as an advanced care nurse at Carle RMH.

As a member of the Evac team, Herdes responds to a variety of emergency calls. She can find herself providing medical assistance to the victims of motor-vehicle accidents and near drownings or assisting patients as they are transported from one hospital to another.

During the flight, she administers cardiac drips and pain medications to keep patients comfortable. She also is watching the cardiac monitors and ventilator support.

“Basically anything they can do in an emergency room, we can do in flight,” she added.

For Herdes, the most difficult flights are those involving children.

“It is hard to deal with, but it is the best when you get a positive result,” she said. “As a parent myself, I can’t imagine what it must be like. When you can help a kid in need, their parents are so appreciative. They can’t thank you enough for what you are doing for their child.”

Herdes says the IECC Nursing Program prepared her well.

“I really enjoyed the IECC instructors,” she said. “They were excellent and easy to get along with. You don’t have to go to a big university. You can get the education you need close to home.”

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