Going to extremes to let off some steam

June 24, 2021  //  FOUND IN: Our Employees,

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What’s your idea of a relaxing time? Is it sitting on a beach soaking up the summer sun? What about hiking through the woods of northern Michigan, exploring what nature has to offer? Perhaps it’s just reading a book in your backyard, chatting with friends or listening to your favorite podcast.

For a group of anesthesia technicians at Michigan Medicine, “getting away from it all” took on a whole different look earlier this year: It meant jumping out of a moving airplane from thousands of feet in the air.

It’s true, 10 anesthesia techs went skydiving together in Jackson, Michigan. For all of them, it was their first time making the leap — and it became an experience they’ll remember forever.

High-intensity work

Anesthesia techs often have a fast-paced job.

“We support anesthesia providers in operating rooms and ambulatory care areas,” said Adam Horne, allied health associate supervisor, who helped plan the skydiving excursion. “That means we set up equipment, run critical devices that help reprocess blood during transplant surgeries and even assist with patient transports and other critical functions.”

During COVID-19, techs also helped convert patient rooms to potentially house intensive care patients and adapted to new protocols and equipment to help conserve materials in the wake of potential shortages.

“Like everyone at Michigan Medicine, we’ve been through a lot since March 2020,” Horne said. “And we wanted to do something together outside of work that would help us blow off some steam and become closer as colleagues.”

When someone suggested skydiving, Horne and his coworkers immediately — though somewhat hesitantly — jumped at the chance (pun intended).

‘It’s actually happening’

The 10 techs said their nerves built as the day got closer and closer.

“At first it was just a cool idea, and then it you realize ‘Ok, it’s actually happening,’” said Horne.

But as they got in the air and people started jumping and landing safely, anxiety began to subside.

“We were pumping each other up and supporting each other as each person went one-by-one,” said tech Olivia Jacobson, who was in her first few weeks at Michigan Medicine when the team went to Jackson.

Horne said that once he jumped, he just lived in the moment: “It wasn’t scary. It was exhilarating. That’s probably because it was just so outside the realm of any bit of normalcy that your body and mind has no context for it.”

Tech Patrick Patton agreed.

“It was the most intense experience of my life — and to be honest, I’m surprised I actually signed up for it,” Patton said. “But I’m so glad that I did.”

A chance to bond

Once back on the ground, the team went for cocktails and met up with other colleagues who had no desire to jump out of an airplane.

“We didn’t want to exclude anyone from a team-building exercise,” Horne said. “So we made sure there were two parts to the day, so that we could all come together as one group and have a good time.”

But for those who did skydive, it’s something they’ll never forget.

“In our jobs, when we have moments at work that bring us together, it’s usually something traumatic — a case where things have gone wrong in the OR or a patient codes and we need to work together to help them,” Horne said. “Now we have something equally as intense that we’ve gone through together, and it’s an entirely positive experience. There’s no price you can put on that.”

For Jacobson, it also served as a great chance to meet new colleagues.

“How often do you get to do something like that with your coworkers?” she said. “I got to do it in my first few weeks, which is something I can carry with me for the rest of my career here.”

Patton said looking back on it, skydiving made perfect sense for a group of anesthesia techs.

“This took us totally out of our comfort zone, but we stepped up and did it anyway,” he said. “That happens all the time at work — we may be put out of our comfort zone during a surgery or procedure, but in the moment, we all step up and succeed.

“That’s what I love most about this group — and I’m proud of us for doing this and look forward to finding other unique ways to bond in the future.”

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