PLEASANT HILL — “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Everyone has pondered that question at one time or another.
For Newton High School product Mandy Via the question held as much mystery as it does for most youngsters.
“I remember watching CareFlight fly over when I was little,” said Via, “and never once gave any of that a thought.”
Via had aspired to become a veterinarian but learned that the cost of schooling was prohibitive. She began working at a veterinary clinic while taking a “couple of classes” at Edison State Community College.
Along the way, Via got married and had two children and decided to go to Community Nursing School in Springfield to become a nurse. She said that even at that time, she wasn’t entirely certain that nursing was what she wanted to do for a living.
It was when she began her Emergency Room clinical rotation that things began to click for Via. After graduating from nursing school, Via became a Cardiac Care nurse at Miami Valley Hospital.
“At that time, it (the Cardiac Care Unit) was located near the north helipad at the hospital. I would watch the helicopters come and go every night,” Via said. “Again, never once thinking about being a flight nurse. That just seems to be so far off. They had a lot of education. They were in a lot of high-stress situations and they were always so calm, so cool.”
Several months into her nursing career, the young nurse took a class taught by a CareFlight flight nurse who informed Via of the opportunity for ride-alongs. Via said that she was “like what? What is this magical thing you are telling me about?”
Via did the ride-along and, “Once I got into the air, it was like the stars aligned for me. I remember flying over I-70 with a cardiac patient. It was really time-sensitive. I thought, we are going almost 200 miles per hour, we have these awesome care providers in here, they are autonomous with the patient, and they are making a difference. They are keeping this patient alive. For me, that was like an ‘ah ha’ moment. This is what I want to do.”
Via then began working toward becoming a flight nurse. One of the biggest obstacles was the requirement of three years as a critical care nurse, so “right away I put in to transfer to the Emergency Room at Miami Valley, within nine months of becoming a nurse.”
As the three years passed, Via kept a checklist of things that needed to be done in order to apply. She checked them off one by one, she said.
Via submitted her application to work for CareFlight on the very day she completed her three years in critical care in May 2012. She got an interview and was hired.
The passion that Via and her fellow flight nurses share is that they are in a position to save lives, she said.
“You know, it’s a beautiful thing to have the autonomy. We can intubate. We can do chest tubes. We can do percardiocentesis, the types of things that, if we don’t do, patients can succumb to their injuries.”
Via stressed that saving lives in critical care situations is very much a collaborative effort.
“From fire, to EMS, to Miami County Dispatch, to our dispatch. Yes, we do save lives, but it’s the EMS provider recognizing the severity of the injuries. It’s the ER doctors and the trauma surgeons, even down to the caregivers helping that person get back to their life.”
In addition to her duties as a CareFlight flight nurse, Via is the outreach coordinator for the Premier Health CareFlight program.
In that capacity, Via coordinates a number of programs designed to educate students on the dangers of impaired driving. The program has gained national attention. Via earned the 2017 Excellence in Community Service Award for her work with the Drive Smart Program.
She continues today to works as both flight nurse and her outreach programs. CareFlight is also one of the premier public relations “tools” for Premier Health Network. Wherever CareFlight goes, crowds gather to view the Dauphin twin-engine helicopters, and of course to chat with the pilots and flight nurses.
Via, who resides near Pleasant Hill with her husband and two children, emphasized that all students, from any school and any background, once they find their passion and set their goals, can achieve anything, if they work hard enough.
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