by Jason P. Smith
Robert Green, a flight nurse with AirLife of Denver, said he always grew up hearing stories about health care from his father and his aunt, who were both radiology technicians. And it was because of their strong commitment to their work and the stories they told that Greene knew he wanted to pursue a career devoted to helping others.
"The stories always came with a bit of humor whenever possible, but I also saw the expression on their faces change when they spoke about something truly tragic or sad," Greene said. "I knew I wanted to do something to help people that was both challenging and fulfilling and nursing is certainly both. Nurses are the backbone of health care – we are with the patients around the clock in hospitals and are the front line caregivers in most settings."
Greene, who earned his BSN from the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in 1993, said his graduation day was one of his most memorable moments. "The expression of my father, mother and grandmother is a memory I will never forget – tears of joy and pride," Greene said. "I was the first person in my family to earn a college degree."
Another moment in Greene’s career that was rewarding was the day he was hired as a flight nurse. This day, however, was also in some ways one of the scariest days of his career in nursing. "My dream had come true – now I had to prove to myself and my new coworkers I could cut it."
Although flight nursing would undoubtedly be a difficult transition from any area of nursing, Greene said he really enjoys his job. "I love the challenge of not knowing what will happen next, or when, or where," Greene said. "In one shift I can be in our critical care ground unit or helicopter or our Lear jet. I can be in Denver, or any community in the surrounding states.
"The people I work with are amazing people – we are a very tight knit group. We are passionate about what we do and we all try to be the best at what we do. We are constantly updating our skills, furthering our education and looking for ways to improve our care to the community."
Throughout his career as a flight nurse, Greene has had many trying experiences, but he takes his work seriously and appreciates the rewarding moments he has when working. "It’s rewarding to me when I know I’ve made a difference in someone’s life," Greene said. "As a flight nurse, I make decisions which directly impact someone’s life. Knowing I actually intervened and saved a life is a powerful experience, and it’s also very humbling and certainly makes me keenly aware of how fragile life is. It has made me a person who lives life to the fullest.
"Being present and involved in either birth or death is an amazing privilege and responsibility."
Like many who have been in the field of nursing for several years, Greene has noticed the change in where new nurses start out working in a hospital. Due to the nursing shortage, many nurses start out working in departments such as the emergency department, the intensive care unit and the operating room. And while some new graduates do just fine in these departments, others do not fair so well. "Some hospitals do a great job mentoring these inexperienced nurses and support them in becoming competent, caring and expert clinicians," Greene said. "Unfortunately, many institutions do not. They are not willing to spend the money or the resources to retain and support ongoing professional nurse development."
Despite some of the problems currently facing the field of nursing, Greene feels nurses will continue to grow and expand into new areas of health care. "Nurses struggle to balance many of the issues in health care while being the ‘care’ in health care," Greene said. "Nursing leadership and the health care industry are just starting to realize that they must make nursing an attractive career for young people – the demand for nurses will only increase as the population ages. We need to be more creative in our recruitment and retainment strategies."
As far as Greene’s future in nursing, he plans to earn a master’s degree and go on to become a nurse anesthetist in the next few years, which he said is the next logical step for him in his career because the skill set is similar to his current practice and there is a great deal of autonomy.
When he is not riding in an ambulance, helicopter or Lear jet, Greene said he enjoys spending time fishing with his dad. He also is a Colorado native, so many of his friends are here as well. "I have a large group of friends I spend time with enjoying the Denver nightlife, mountains and outdoor activities," Greene said. "And I love to travel. I’ve been fortunate to travel all over the world. When I was in Saudi Arabia, I traveled to wonderful places in the Middle East, Asia, Europe, Africa and around the Mediterranean. These wonderful experiences impacted my life – I have a greater appreciation for other cultures and people."