AirCare turns 35


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One minute, Pat Doser is helping nurses set difficult IVs or assisting with patient care in the trauma emergency room.

The next, he could be boarding a helicopter, rushing to an emergency situation in eastern Iowa.

“Our job with AirCare is multifaceted … we wear multiple hats,” said Doser, a flight nurse with UI AirCare. “You never have the same day twice. You never know what you’re going to end up in the middle of, so there’s a certain level of excitement that comes from that, and you get a certain level of satisfaction from helping people in an emergency situation.”

This month marks the 35th year of the AirCare service at the UI and after transporting over 25,000 patients, officials said they expect the program to be even more successful in future years.

“What we hope to see from this progress in future years is our continued ability to serve our community,” said Azeem Ahmed, the executive vice chairman of the UI Emergency-Medicine Department. “We see our role as an extension of the hospital system, so we hope to expand our service.”

UI AirCare, the Air and Mobile Critical Care Service, made its first flight in 1979 and was one of the first 15 medical air-care services in the country.

Initially, Ahmed said the program started with one base and expanded to Waterloo in the 1980s.

“The UI AirCare transport program is essentially an extension of the UIHC,” Ahmed said. “I see it not only as serving a medical service, but it also serves as an ambassador … it’s a representative of our health-care system at the hospital.”

Doser said AirCare is a critical part of the hospital’s ability to deliver quality care.

“AirCare is one link in a chain,” he said.  “Much of what we do is extremely time-sensitive, and it can be the difference between life and death for people.”

UI spokesman Tom Moore said this timeliness is key to understanding the concept of the system.

“[The patients] could be far away, and it is absolutely crucial that they receive medical attention at the highest possible level,” he said. “I think it demonstrates the hospital’s commitment to providing high-quality, outstanding care to patients, no matter where they located.”

Averaging two flights a day, Moore said, they are dedicated to a culture of safety.

“We have an outstanding safety record, and that’s because there’s a deep commitment to making sure safety is the No. 1 priority,” he said. “So I think that’s another key to the outstanding job the crew has done over the years.”

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