Meet Badass Paige K. // BSN ’16
ER Nurse. OR Nurse. U.S. Air Force Flight Nurse.
Paige’s nursing career in nursing is taking off. Literally.
From the ER to the OR and finally to the Air Force. Paige’s journey is quite remarkable.
Paige K.’s (BSN ’16) journey to the United States Air Force is a story of perseverance. After graduating from high school in Crystal Lake, IL, she started in a pre-veterinarian program. “I grew up riding horses,” Paige explained. “For me it made sense but as it turned out I just didn’t want to go to school that long and to be honest it just wasn’t for me.” Paige enrolled in the nursing program at Resurrection University and earned her BSN in May of 2016. She explored a variety of nursing roles including roles in the ER and OR, but never really found her niche. Then she discovered the Air Force. Paige explains, “I was working in the ER and the Charge Nurse was a Flight Nurse in the Air Force Reserve. Another technician was in the Coast Guard. I started hearing about their experiences and I was hooked. I was always interested in the military, so when I discovered I could build my nursing career there and my nursing skills were needed, I knew it was perfect.” “I looked into it and started applying in the beginning of 2017. It’s a long application process.” Paige was commissioned as an officer in the Air Force Reserve in June 2018. In the Reserve, she was required to drill one weekend a month, fly one weekend a month and participate in yearly training. She completed a year of training and became a qualified Flight Nurse in June 2019.
What’s the role of a Flight Nurse? Paige explains, “We work in crews of five (two nurses and three techs), which can also change based on patient load. We do stable patient transport, Aeromedical Evacuation (AE). We have to understand how a patient’s condition changes with altitude. Before each mission, we actually configure the aircraft which is usually a standard cargo aircraft. Believe it or not there are no planes just for patient transport. Flight Nurses have to know all about the aircraft from a clinical/ operational perspective. It’s a lot of responsibility.”
Paige grew up no stranger to manual labor and that’s one of the things she loves about being a Flight Nurse. “I love the operational side of the job.” Paige continued, “It’s cool work because you have a lot of physical work to do before the mission. You have to configure the aircraft. You have to see the big picture and make the decisions about how best to transport the patient. You have to string electrical and oxygen lines throughout the plane and make sure everything is perfect.” Paige enjoyed her experience so much in the Reserve that she applied, and was accepted, for active duty. Paige says, “There’s a big difference between Reserve and active duty. Reserve is mostly training – we train for deployment. When I’m active duty, most of my missions will be live. I’ll be in forward operating bases.”
However, due to the emergence of COVID earlier this year, her dates for active duty were delayed. In the interim, she worked in the Emergency Department at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center. She also started a program this Spring in public health to get her master’s degree. She arrived in Japan in September where she is now stationed, completed two weeks of quarantine and will be up and flying soon! “I never knew about the nursing opportunities in the military.” Paige added, “You can work in major specialties, the pay is actually better than many of the civilian nursing jobs, you get leadership training, you get to travel, and the retirement benefits are incredible. You also get to do things most people never experience. Survival school was amazing.”
Paige sees her role in the Air Force as a great honor. As she says, “If you want to feel like you’re serving a higher purpose, this is it.” When asked about her advice to nursing students who might be interested in a military career Paige recommends the Reserve. “It’s a great way to experience it.”