Graduate’s passion for public service takes flight

Ivy Tech Northeast alumnus Jay Curry has been a crew member with Parkview Health’s Samaritan Flight Program for the past 10 years, beginning as a flight paramedic in 2003 and signing on as a flight nurse in 2012.

Jay Curry’s profession is one that presents nonstop peril, as he makes rapid-fire, life-altering decisions nearly every day. His fortitude is tested even further while maneuvering in a confined space—often traveling at an adrenaline-pumping 180 mph in the process.

But don’t look to the racetrack to find this Ivy Tech Community College Northeast alumnus. Look to the sky. Curry is a highly trained flight nurse.

Curry and his colleagues with Parkview Health’s medical flight service, the Samaritan Flight Program, respond swiftly to provide 24/7 advanced life support care and rapid transport to trauma, critically ill, cardiac, and neonatal patients.

“We have a small space to accomplish our task of treatment, but we virtually have the same equipment and medications that an emergency room or intensive care unit would have,” Curry says. “We also have more autonomy than most ER and ICU nurses. We are able to make treatment decisions based on standing orders and protocols that are already in place.”

The hospital maintains two aero-medical helicopters, Samaritan I and Samaritan II, which are based respectively at Parkview Regional Medical Center in Fort Wayne—the location of Level II Adult and Pediatric Trauma Centers—and at Rochester Airport in Rochester, Ind.

The helicopters are dispatched by Parkview Huntington Hospital’s Communication Center to serve communities throughout the tri-state, ideally serving a 100-mile radius around each base.

The standard medical flight crew works 12-hour shifts and consists of a pilot, nurse, and paramedic. Curry defines the members’ individual roles as the pilot being solely responsible for the safe operation and flight of the aircraft, the nurse specializing in the overall hospital-environment care of the patient, and the paramedic addressing the pre-hospital aspects of patient treatment.

Curry has been a crew member for the past 10 years, beginning as a flight paramedic in 2003 and signing on as a flight nurse in 2012. He earned an A.S.N. from Ivy Tech Northeast in late 2008 and passed his state boards shortly thereafter to become a registered nurse.

“I would like to convey my appreciation for the outstanding education I received at Ivy Tech,” Curry says. “The Nursing program is placing exceptional nurses in the workplace.”

Presently, he is one class away from completing a B.S.N. from Purdue University Calumet.

Curry says he felt compelled to enter a career in public service following a traumatic event from his youth.

“I was witness to a horrific accident along a county road when I was in junior high school and remember watching everyone respond. I knew then I wanted to work in public service,” Curry says. “After taking the EMT (emergency medical technician) class in high school, I was hooked on EMS (emergency medical services) and the ability to help those often having the worst day of their lives.”

From the most basic, CPR certification, to the more advanced, Advanced Cardiac Life Support, Curry has completed more than 13 healthcare-related certificates and training modules to date. He says he continually aims for additional cutting-edge education at conferences, from industry peers,

and in professional, peer-reviewed journals.

When Curry and his colleagues are on duty, they primarily await calls to action from their quarters at the helicopter bases. In the interim, they resort to daily tasks—often volunteering in the ER—until it’s time to grab their gear, head to the helipad, and take off at a moment’s notice to safely intervene in emergency situations.

“We have strict safety guidelines and weather minimums that must be met before any flight is accepted and during flight to ensure the safety of the flight crew and patient,” Curry says. “We also have post-flight debriefings after every flight to ensure that everything went smoothly.”

Curry’s attention to safety protocol and reverence for patient care is well-respected by Cathy Harris, PRMC’s director of flight and EMS.

“We have high-quality people on our Samaritans, and Jay is one of them,” Harris says. “Our commitment for the past 24 years will remain unchanged. We will continue to do what we do best—and that’s fly those critical patients.”

Samaritan aero-medical helicopters

  • Model: French-made American Eurocopter 365 N-2 Dauphin with twin turbine engines (Samaritan 1 is based in Fort Wayne; Samaritan 2 is based in Rochester, Ind.)
  • Average flight speed: 180 mph
  • Fuel: Both helicopters have five fuel tanks and can fly up to three hours on Jet A fuel
  • Patient load: Configured for two adults or three small children; an incubator for a newborn  
  • Crew: One pilot, one nurse, one paramedic
  • On-board resources: Oxygen supply, fluids, dressings, medications, two cardiac monitors, as well as other medical equipment that may be required to tend to a critical patient’s needs during flight   

Source: Photo by Eric Clabaugh