Fractured limbs, lacerations, heart attacks and strokes, Alex Haines has seen his share of emergencies, first as a security officer, then an ED tech and RN, now a flight nurse with LifeFlight®.
As a security officer at Geisinger Lewistown Hospital, Alex spent a lot of time in the emergency department and became intrigued by the idea of helping patients during the critical moments in their lives. It motivated him to make a career change from criminology to nursing. When he made the jump, Geisinger Lewistown Hospital School of Nursing offered the right option.
“First I took a job as an ED tech and fell in love with it,” says Alex. “I loved being able to provide care to people on their worst days.” He decided to keep going. “My first degree is in criminology, but when I graduated, there was a hiring freeze with the State Police, so I turned to healthcare.”
And still he kept going. Alex applied to the Geisinger Lewistown School of Nursing and took classes while working at least two 12-hour shifts in the ER.
“It took me two years, but there’s also a three-year option,” he says. “My graduating class was made up of all ages and different education levels, from high school graduates to people seeking a second degree to someone looking for a complete career change. One classmate was 54 years old. One nice thing about this program is that it gives people a chance to start a second career.”
Nursing school was challenging but rewarding. “It’s really tough — you eat, sleep and breathe nursing,” says Alex. “I took gen. eds, had a clinical at 6 a.m. and an anatomy lab at night.” But he had a built-in support system. “You develop a tight bond with your classmates. Despite your differences, you’re all in it together.”
Alex also found support in his fiancée. “My wife and I were engaged then. We had a long engagement because we both wanted to focus on schooling.”
Moving from RN to flight nurse took work — and a lot of it. “I started in critical care.” Taking care of sick patients in urgent need and taking care of the families meant that Alex frequently interacted with Life Flight. To make the move, he needed three years’ experience in critical care, his pre-hospital RN certification, trauma certification, Basic and Advanced Life Support and Neonatal resuscitation certification. After completing several fly-alongs with the LifeFlight crew, Alex then had to interview with a panel of senior LifeFlight managers. The second interview required successful completion of a sim lab with a medical director observing.
The School of Nursing was instrumental in setting Alex on his path to success. “The School of Nursing is community-based, and one of the best in PA. It helped me answer the question, ‘How can I better myself to better my community?’”