When not working her day job as a nurse manager for Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center in Phoenix, U.S. Air Force Reservist Lucy Lehker makes up one-third of the Critical Care Air Transport team aboard a “flying Intensive Care Unit/Operating Room.”
Lehker, who has been deployed four times including a six-month stint in Afghanistan, serves as a specially trained critical care nurse with one respiratory therapist and one trauma surgeon who, together with 800 pounds of equipment and gear, work to save the lives of wounded soldiers.
Amidst the complexities of administering medical treatment and performing surgery at high altitudes in a moving aircraft, the medical team must put their math and chemistry skills to use at all times to continually update the pilot, so as to avoid technical problems in-flight. The team is tasked with operating technology and equipment – such as ventilators, monitors, suction machines, and wound care systems – that are particularly made to be compact in order to fit in the treatment bays aboard planes such as a C-17 or C-130.
One of Lucy's favorite parts of the job is training non-medical personnel, such as pilots, to use medical equipment to administer "self aid" and "buddy care" in emergencies to save someone's life. She also works closely with flying paramedics, better known as para-rescuers or para-troopers, whose efforts can help stabilize and transport patients to the hospital within 24 hours.
During her presentation, she challenged students to design an innovative "litter" (stretcher) for air transport care. The current design has been in use since the Korean War, and is less than effective.
ABOUT LUCY LEHKER
Lt. Col. Deborah “Lucy” Lehker has served over 15 years in the U.S. Air Force Reserve. She has been activated four times since 9/11 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. In March 2010 she returned from a seven-month deployment in Kandahar, Afghanistan, as a Critical Care Air Transport Team (CCATT) nurse. Her newly appointed position is the Chief Nurse for the 752nd Medical Squadron, March ARB, Calif. Lehker was awarded in 2007 the "Nurses Health Care Hero Award" from Phoenix Business Journal and "Military Nurse of the Year" from March of Dimes.
Lehker has been an employee of Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center for over 16 years. She works as a registered nurse in the trauma intensive care unit and as the senior nurse manager for the In Patient Wound and Ostomy Department. She has a master's degree in nursing, and an advanced practice certification as a wound and ostomy nurse, and she maintains advanced certifications in trauma nursing (TNCC), cardiac (ACLS), burns (ABLS), and pediatrics (PALS). Currently completing a second Master's of Military Operational Art and Science degree, she is FEMA certified as part of her Hospital's Emergency Response Team (HERT).
Lehker is a member of Sigma Theta Tau International, Air Force Reserve Officer Association, World Council of Enterstomal Therapists, Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nurses Society, American Nurses Association, Women in Military Service Memorial Foundation, Association of Military Surgeons United States and American Association of Critical Care Nurses.