Busy mom of four works as LifeLine critical care transport nurse

She’s a former ER nurse who always wanted to work as a flight nurse. Sarah Graham says the profession is a good mix of critical care thinking and skills.

Sarah Graham always knew she wanted to work in healthcare. She started out in college working toward a degree in physical therapy. But when she landed a job as a hospital tech her career path switched toward nursing.

And just like landing the job in the hospital, Graham has spent time landing at the scene of some of the most challenging emergencies. A year ago she began working for IU Health LifeLine as a critical care transport nurse with the adult and pediatric critical care team.

Working from the Lafayette base Graham’s day begins at 5 p.m. driving the 45-minute commute from her Indianapolis home. Once at the base, she joins her partner in checking equipment and reviewing reports from the previous shift. And then she waits for a call.

“We’re like a family. Sometimes we eat a meal together, sometimes we spend a lot of time talking about our own families,” said Graham. As the mother of four, including a daughter, 12, son, 11, and twins, 9 she is comfortable working in that homey atmosphere.

“I always wanted to be a flight nurse but I was raising small people and continued to have more small people so I worked part time for 10 years with the focus of raising my kids. Gradually with additional education under my belt, the time was right and the staff here is so supportive,” said Graham.

For 10 years she worked as an ER nurse and also worked in ICU. LifeLine nursing is a good combination of both ER and ICU, she said.

“I really enjoy the complexity of the patients and working to come up with the best care. Having to work through multiple issues and then see progress is what challenges me. With trauma you could say I’m helping people on their worst day and I like that,” said Graham.

She relates one story that stays with her. It was winter and her crew was dispatched to northern Indiana. Due to high winds, it was decided that they would drive rather than fly the two hours. As they drove closer to the sending hospital for transport, Graham and her partner began discussing the severity of the patient. And once they got to the patient’s bedside they realized a helicopter was needed to expedite transportation.

“We met the helicopter at the roadside and the thing I remember the most was how we collaborated with the nurses about the strategy for transport – the patient’s ventilator and medication – and that made all the difference in the outcome,” said Graham. “It really showed a team effort. It’s a job that has you thinking on your feet. You have to talk to your partner and your team, work through scenarios and draw on experience.”

Graham also works through a lot of scenarios at home. With four children, she keeps a color-coded planner to stay on task and relies a lot of on the support of friends and family.

“I’ve always been married to my calendar and I try to prioritize just like in my medical profession – who needs to be where and when.”

More about Graham:

  • What might surprise people: She was a Girl Scout for 12 years.
  • Her friend groups at North Central High School: “I had two groups of friends. One were my soccer teammates and then I had a group of friends from my Girl Scout troop and people involved in extracurricular activities outside or school.”
  • How she stays fit: She has participated in Cross Fit for nine years, coaching and competing in Cross Fit games and also teaching Cross Fit youth classes.

— By T.J. Banes, Journalist, IU Health.
Reach Banes via email tfender1@iuhealth.org.