CEDAR RAPIDS — Bev Minear takes critical care to new heights — upward of 5,000 feet in the sky, in fact.
A nurse with UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s Hospital for 26 years, Minear recently reached a significant milestone: 500 flights on LifeGuard Air Ambulance, which began service at St. Luke’s 35 years ago.
Minear, a 53-year-old Fort Atkins-native, has been flying for more than 10 years in the hospital’s bright blue helicopter, caring for patients all over Linn, Johnson, Jones, Cedar and Benton counties who are in dire, life-threatening situations. Before that, she spent 14 years working in the hospital’s intensive care unit.
Despite working 12-hour-or-more night shifts under incredibly stressful conditions, Minear said she loves working with critically ill patients.
“It’s the best job,” she said. “I feel privileged to be there in their time of crisis.”
The types of emergencies the air ambulance is called to vary, but usually are very severe — some of the most common, Minear said, are head bleeds, strokes, respiratory arrests and heart attacks.
“You’re never quite sure what you’re going to walk into,” said LifeGuard Manager Cathy Ross-Garron. “We fly patients of all ages, all conditions, numerous types of trauma, medical conditions and issues. Being able to adapt and deal with every situation that’s put in front of us is critical.”
When called to emergencies, the team of three — a nurse, pilot and flight paramedic — first assess flying conditions to determine if they are able to fly. Once they arrive on scene they must think on their feet and communicate quickly to determine what’s best for the patient, then deliver them to whichever hospital is best suited for their condition.
“For every situation the team must communicate to determine what we can control, what we can’t and how we can make the best choices to give the most optimal outcome for the situation,” Ross-Garron said. “That’s the challenge and stress of what we do.”
And they must act fast because “time is life,” Minear said. “That first hour makes a big difference.”
Although Minear said she’s a “higher strung” person, she knows how to “take a deep breath in the moment” because “you have to,” she said.
“People look for us to be the calm one in the storm,” she added.
The team also needs to be able to work calmly together with families, patients, first responders, law enforcement, other paramedics and anyone else involved in the emergency, Ross-Garron said. They all must support and rely on each other under immense pressure, as their success depends on camaraderie and trust.
Minear “really demonstrates all of those qualities,” Ross-Garron said. “She’s got a solid foundation of experience in critical care and that experience is paramount. She’s very intelligent, passionate and driven. Quality patient care is first on her radar.”
But Minear is only one piece of the puzzle.
“I as one person am nothing,” Minear said. “It takes a village to take care of patients. I’m just part of a team that makes it happen.”