CEDAR RAPIDS — A large part of a paramedic’s role is emotional support.
At least, that’s how Terri Staner sees her job as a flight paramedic at UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s Hospital’s LifeGuard Air Ambulance.
And that mentality toward patients has carried Staner through her 500th flight, a feat the 55-year-old from Earlville recently marked after 10 years with the Cedar Rapids-based air ambulance.
“This is the worst day of someone’s life and you’re going to need to be part of that and you’re going to need to support them,” Staner said. “You can have perfected every skill there is, but if you’re not able to support them emotionally, then you fail as a paramedic provider.
“That’s how I look at it anyway. That’s part of the care,” she said.
Staner reached the landmark last month, an accomplishment that only three others on St. Luke’s roughly 20-member crew have managed.
“I never thought I would get to the 500th flight,” she said.
Staner works on staff at the Cedar Rapids hospital and on an as-needed basis at Manchester’s hospital. She also volunteers for Earlville’s emergency medical service.
Staner became a paramedic at Regional Medical Center in Manchester starting in 2004.
Before then, she was a single stay-at-home mom to five children. She said she decided to get emergency medical services training “for fun” and started volunteering for Earlville’s ambulance service.
It became a passion.
“I loved everything about EMS,” she said.
She trained to become a paramedic and later joined the St. Luke’s emergency room in August 2007.
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By February 2008, Staner was flying with the crew on the LifeGuard Air Ambulance, which provides rapid medical transport services for Eastern Iowa.
Flight paramedics are highly trained emergency medical personnel who respond to emergencies when typical ground transport is impractical or difficult. They also conduct patient transfers for facilities that are far distances from one another, such as from Cedar Rapids to Chicago or the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
Staner said the patients they serve often are in need of rapid transport, such as in cases of bad car crashes or severe strokes.
“We are very much seeing people at the worst moment of their lives, and you never let yourself forget that,” Staner said. “You always know no matter what’s going on, even if they’re going to be OK, that’s still the worst thing that has happened to them.”
Because of that, Staner said flight paramedics not only have to focus on their jobs, but also help maintain the emotional temperature of the situation.
“You don’t just have one patient. You always have the family or sometimes the staff that’s taking care of them,” she said. “You have to be the calm person in the room, because if I don’t look calm, then it makes them nervous.”
She is comfortable in high-intensity emergency situations, so Staner said working on a flight crew was “always a goal.”
“That’s what I love about the job,” Staner said. “When the pager goes off, you never know what you’re going to get.”
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