About Marcy Phipps, BSN, RN, CCRN, CFRN

Chief flight nurse at Global Jetcare.

Home for Christmas: Flight Nursing and the Symbols of Hope

The Helm of Awe /courtesy of the author

As nurses, we all have patients who stick with us. I’ve thought of Henry many times since we transferred him six months ago from Dublin to an American hospital to undergo groundbreaking treatment or acute lymphocytic leukemia.

His prognosis was poor—a fact he was well aware of. He’d told his father he wanted to “be done.” He’d had enough of hospitals and the medicine that didn’t cure him and only made him feel worse. He was ambulatory and stable from a medical standpoint, but had the drawn and haggard look of the chronically ill. Most disturbing was his reticence. There was none of the enthusiasm I’d expect from a 12-year-old riding across the Atlantic in a Learjet—he couldn’t even be coaxed to lean into the cockpit.

The only time he perked up was when we landed for fuel in Keflavik, Iceland. He sat up and gazed out the window on our approach, looking interested in his surroundings for the first time.  I found out from his dad that he’d missed a school trip to the island due to his cancer, and I started telling him all I knew of Iceland, which wasn’t much. At that time, I had […]

2017-07-27T11:49:54+00:00 December 20th, 2016|Nursing, nursing stories|0 Comments

Dark Water, Wild Winds: Notes of a Flight Nurse

I must see new things
And investigate them.
I want to taste dark water
And see crackling trees and wild winds.
—Egon Schiele


I’m standing on the tarmac in Manaus, Brazil, where there is indeed a wild wind; it blows debris across the runway yet does nothing to stave off the nearly intolerable heat. Sweat soaks my back and drips down the center of my chest. My limbs are heavy with lethargy. The heat index is 110 but it feels much hotter—even the Learjet fails to provide a haven from the equatorial sun.

We’d come to Brazil to repatriate an Englishman who’d been visiting family and was struck down by sudden and severe seizures. He’d spent weeks in the hospital, sustaining scans and diagnostics to pinpoint the cause, and endured the addition of one antiepileptic medication after another.

While the seizures finally ceased, he was left disquieted and uncomfortable, unsure which symptoms were due to the 7 cm brain mass that had been discovered and which were side effects of the myriad of antidotes. By the time we were dispatched for this mission, he was medically stable and ready to go home to deal with the ominous findings. Biopsies awaited and treatments would […]

Superlatives: An Alternate List for Nurses Week

Photo from otisarchives4, via Flickr.

By Marcy Phipps, BSN, RN, CCRN. We originally published this post in 2010, but it’s so good we wanted to share it again this week. Enjoy!

During Nurses Week (May 6–12), the hospital where I work gives out endearing little trophies as awards for “nursing superlatives.” Ballots are distributed with predetermined categories, and the categories are usually fun and relatively straightforward. They include:

  • Best at Starting an IV
  • Most Likely to Crack a Raunchy Joke before Noon
  • Most Likely to Cry at Some Point during a Shift
  • Funniest Nurse
  • Most “Germ-a-Phobic” Nurse

The contests and catered meals, fun gifts, and light-hearted spirit of Nurses Week make it one of the nicest work weeks of the year, and we all come out of it feeling appreciated. But, in consideration of nursing superlatives, I’d like to propose some new categories. Although these titles won’t fit on the trophy plates, I think they’re worthy of recognition.

  • Most Likely to Notice, By the Tone of Another Nurse’s Voice, That Said Nurse Is Approaching a ‘Tilt’ Level of Stress, and Intervene Accordingly
  • Most Likely to Volunteer to Assist with Postmortem Care  (a job that nobody looks forward to, but that’s nonetheless important)
  • Most Likely to Accompanying Another Nurse on the Transport of an Unstable Patient to a Necessary Scan
  • Most Flexible; or Most Likely to […]

Nursing Reads: A Powerful New Novel Evokes Diverse Perspectives on an Organ Transplant


By Marcy Phipps, BSN, RN, CCRN, chief flight nurse at Global Jetcare

The Heart, a new novel by Maylis de Kerangal, caught my attention with a cover art image suggestive of the vascular and as beautiful as an angiogram. Taking place over a 24-hour period, the novel describes a 19-year-old accident victim who suffers brain death and the people who are connected to the heart transplant that follows: his parents, the doctors and nurses, the recipient of the heart. As a nurse who’s seen the organ transplant process from a number of angles, I wasn’t sure how De Kerangal could possibly navigate such material.

But the novel, which has been ably translated from French, is both subtle and powerful, casting light on the complexity of every character, from the pre-accident vitality of Simon, the donor, to the conflicted gratitude of the heart recipient; from the inexperienced ICU nurse to the surgeons.

Two important characters are nurses, though they are only a part of the larger picture:

Cordelia Owl, Simon’s ICU nurse, is an inexperienced practitioner. She carries out her nursing tasks in a distracted, perfunctory manner, speaking aloud to the unresponsive Simon as she cares for him. In doing so, she inadvertently intensifies the anguish of his parents, who are standing nearby and struggling with the concept of brain death.

Though her behavior shocks the attending physician, she’s not dealt […]

Rightness: A Flight Nurse Taps Into the Universal Language of Nursing

“Immersed in a nursing role that I didn’t even know existed when I entered the profession, I find there to be a common language—one rooted in science but strongest in humanity and compassion, transcending culture, geography, and words.”

By Marcy Phipps, BSN, RN, CCRN, chief flight nurse at Global Jetcare

MarcyPhipps_Flight_NursingI’m standing in the doorway of our plane, watching our patient sleep and eyeing the monitor. The monitor’s beeps keep steady time and mix with the sounds of the pounding waves that batter the atoll.

We’ve stopped for fuel on this narrow runway that stretches down a spit of land in the Pacific. As the sun rises we snack on cold gyudon, a Japanese dish we picked up in Guam. It’s not the best breakfast, but somehow feels right—like a lot of other aspects of this job lately.

We’d started our mission in eastern Asia, picking up an American citizen who’d fallen ill in a city that didn’t cater to tourists and where almost no one spoke English.

While there, our crew’s handler—someone whose job it is to facilitate our lodging, transportation, and generally ease our way—had taken us to a dimly lit restaurant on a back street and treated us to a myriad of local delicacies, some of which I recognized, many of which I didn’t. My usual morning run had led me through parks and a street market crowded with […]