A Day in the Life: Chad Hall, Survival Flight communication specialist

July 9, 2019  //  FOUND IN: Our Employees,

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Across the organization, thousands of employees spend their days carrying out exceptional patient care, education and research.

But each individual’s role is unique — and with that in mind, the A Day in the Life Headlines series introduces an employee and gives readers a snapshot of their daily life at Michigan Medicine.

Today, meet Chad Hall, a communication specialist with Survival Flight. Survival Flight provides patient transport to critically-ill and injured patients using rotor-wing helicopters or long-haul airplanes stationed at two bases — University Hospital and the Spencer J. Hardy Airport in Livingston County. Flight crews also travel to procure organs for transplants and other vital tasks.

Hall, along with nine other communication specialists, help plan Survival Flight missions and organize clinicians and others on the ground to assist crew members once a patient or transplant organ arrives at the intended destination.

5:15 a.m.: Chad arrives for the day and gets a briefing from the night communication specialists. The briefing includes flights completed overnight, aircraft and crew locations and pending flights for the day. He checks email and reviews if there are any emergency notifications that pilots should know about.

6:30 a.m.: It’s time for the safety briefing with aircraft crew members — including pilots, nurses, emergency medicine residents, mechanics and other communication specialists.

“During this meeting, we do a risk assessment for the crew members, check on the status of medical equipment in the aircrafts, review the weather forecasts and talk about any pending maintenance that may be required,” Chad said. “We do this once for the crew stationed at University Hospital and again with the crew in Livingston County.”

In the end, it’s all about planning.

“The kind of flights we have could end up lasting an entire shift, especially if they involve airplanes that can travel as far as the Caribbean,” Chad said. “We need to identify airports that will be utilized, ground transportation, and making sure the flight goes as easy as possible for the nurses and pilots.”

9 a.m.: The first flight request of the day comes in. Sometimes, requests are made as early as 7 a.m.

“We provide approximately 1,100 patient transports to the university or other regional health centers each year,” Chad said. And each call sets off a chain reaction with work that comes fast and furious.

“Every patient we treat requires approximately 50-75 calls, pages or tones for various clinical and treatment teams,” Chad said. “All of those communications are documented and tracked to ensure nothing is overlooked and patients get the care they need when they reach their destination.” 

10:30 a.m.: Chad gets a call from a county dispatcher, letting him know about a traumatic motor vehicle accident.

“Scene calls are a challenge, but they are incredibly exciting,” Chad said. “We work with all the counties in our area to assist in emergency rescues for trauma patients or for time-sensitive critical medical issues.”

Chad proceeds to build a flight plan from the organization’s mapping system, then dispatches a helicopter to the scene of the accident. Next, Survival Flight identifies the closest trauma center for the crew to transport patients and then calls that facility so they can assemble their trauma teams.

Noon – 3:30 p.m.: More calls and pages are handled.

Some have to do with organ procurement, which Survival Flight is in charge of at Michigan Medicine.

“Our teams provide transport arrangements for surgeons, organ preservationists and other supporting individuals via helicopter, airplane and ground transportation,” Chad said.

Other flights he handles include maintenance flights and public relations flights. On top of that, Survival Flight is responsible for all ambulance traffic coming into both the adult and pediatric emergency departments.

“We get detailed medical reports to charge nurses as a patient is being transported here so that the correct teams are in position,” Chad said.

Every step of his day is dependent upon teamwork and attention to detail.

“Between staying in constant communication with the aircrafts, planning on the ground with clinical crews and forging relationships with external facilities, there is a lot to juggle,” Chad said.

3:30 p.m.: A flight is completed. Chad and the rest of the ground crew meet with the flight team to find out if there were any issues that need to be addressed so that they don’t happen again in the future. 

4 p.m. – 5 p.m.: As his shift comes to an end, Chad checks all flight records and logs and prepares a report for the incoming night crew.

“We take a lot of pride in communicating exactly what is going on not only to our Survival Flight team members, but also to clinicians in the hospital or outside facilities,” Chad said. “I couldn’t do what I do without the support of my teammates and department leadership.”

It’s a role Chad takes a lot of pride in — and one he hopes to continue carrying out in the years ahead.

“Coming into work each day is different and exciting. We are allowed to shape the care our patients, have a positive effect on the safety of our program, and make the transport of critically-ill patients as comforting as possible to families,” Chad said. “Our administrators make us a vital part of the flight crew. I wouldn’t want to work anywhere else.”

Do you want to share your typical day in Headlines? Email headlines@med.umich.edu with a description of your role at Michigan Medicine!

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