Decisive Critical Care Nurse Ensures Medevac Situations Go Well

For Medflight’s Pruitt, Obstacles to Patient Care Easily Overcome

Jennifer Pruitt

Critical Care Medflight

Despite having spent most of her career working in level one trauma centers, Pruitt says nothing quite compares to working in a medevac scenario.

Her company, equipped with a fleet of aircraft, travels all over the world taking patients wherever they need to go to receive medical care for their respective issues. Her work has found her jetting to every state in the country and all provinces in Canada, a host of Caribbean islands, and countries including Peru, Brazil and Italy. However, it was a medical mission to Nicaragua that saw Pruitt leaping over multiple hurdles and making off-the-cuff, life-or-death decisions.

Last April, Pruitt, a respiratory therapist and their flight crew headed to Nicaragua to retrieve a 42-year-old American man in dire need of medical care.

Pruitt found the man had been injured and left for dead under mysterious circumstances. Getting him into and out of the hospital became a chore as did arranging transportation to the airport. Intent on boarding a plane and getting the ventilated patient stateside, Pruitt, the patient and the team were stopped in their tracks. Nicaraguan authorities weren’t going to allow them to leave the country. After waiting more than seven hours in scorching heat, the medevac plane was permitted to fly to the patient’s home state of Pennsylvania.

As the plane soared above Cuba, the patient’s condition began to worsen. He coded multiple times. Pruitt and her partner made the decision to take the patient to the nearest emergency room at their fuel stop in Tampa, Fla.

Once the patient was shuttled by ambulance from the airport to Tampa General Hospital, Pruitt prepared to return home to Covington. Yet she couldn’t get the patient off of her mind.

She later learned he coded three times his first night in the hospital. So Pruitt called to check on him for the next three days. By the fourth day, she found out he was miraculously awake and talking. That’s when she asked her friend Key Wade, who nominated her for the Celebrating Nurses honor, to drive her to Tampa to visit the patient.

Pruitt actually had a 20-minute conversation with the patient, something she’ll always hold dear. Although he began to improve to the point where he was eventually transported home to Pennsylvania, the patient passed away soon thereafter.

However, Pruitt’s care, decision-making skills and beyond-the-call-of-duty concern epitomize her nursing philosophy.

On her job:

“There are only a select few of these types of companies who take you all over the world. It’s a very humbling and rewarding experience to bring someone back home to get the care they need and deserve. You see people on the worst day of their life scared out of their minds, because they’re in a foreign hospital. To be able to get them out of that situation is very rewarding.”