Susan Schindler, Assistant Program Manager
REACH 19 (RW)/REACH 53 (FW) – North Bend, OR
How would you summarize your job?
I take care of the day-to-day operations for the base. I also supervise the medical personnel, and I do outreach to the hospitals, rural fire departments, and EMS agencies in the area. There’s a big “Other Duties as Assigned” component to my job, too. Like today, I was dealing with van maintenance and clinical issues and pilots and doing a PR piece and dealing with a hospital …
Tell me a little bit about the region your base serves.
We’re very rural. The timber industry is huge here and there’s a lot of outdoor activities. The coast has sand dunes, so people come here to go dune riding. There’s quite a bit of recreation and tourism since we’re near Highway 101.
Our base covers greater than a 50-mile radius. We do interfacility transfers for five local hospitals consistently, and we do scene calls along the coast. Where we are has the largest hospital on the Oregon Coast (Bay Area Hospital).
How many people work there?
There are 18 employees total. We have six RNs, three paramedics, two helicopter pilots, four fixed wing pilots and two mechanics. I’m the longest-term employee. I started in 2005.
What did you want to be when you grew up, and what are some highlights from the time between then and now?
A nurse, all my life. I was probably about four years old and a relative gave me a book called Nurse Nancy. I’ve never wanted to be anything else. I didn’t grow up in a family of nurses or anything. It just happened. My mother was a teacher and my father was a farmer.
I went to flight nurse school in the military and also studied critical care. I became a critical care nurse and a flight nurse at the same time. Critical care was very exciting for me. I worked at the VA hospital in Seattle for 18 years. I loved working there. It was probably one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.
I have been with REACH since October 2014. For nine years prior to that, I was the Chief Flight Nurse for Emergency Airlift, the company that REACH purchased. It was a single owner/operator company, and I was in charge of the medical part.
On the path that led to where you are today, what were your top three supportive and/or motivational influences? They can be people, institutions, life events, anything.
- I would say my parents. It wasn’t a question of going on to have a career or not, it was just a question of what I wanted to be. They were very encouraging. They just expected it.
- The military. I was in the Air Force. It really helped form me. I went to college right after high school. I came from a very rural area, and I was having a hard time integrating, so I left college and went into the military. It really gave me the structure I needed. I’m not sure I was conscious of the choices I was making, but I was at a point in my life where I wasn’t really sure what else to do. When you’re talking to a recruiter at that age, it sounds pretty attractive, and in my life, the military was a very positive experience. I was on active duty for 5 years, then went to college, then went back as a reservist and retired after 23 years.
- College. I went to University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota and got my Bachelor’s in Nursing. I had a great college experience. It’s a small Catholic college, and they really give a lot of attention to their students.
- Bonus answer: My very first nursing job at the VA hospital in Seattle. I worked with a number of people who were flight nurses, and I decided that was what I wanted to do.
How do you feel about acknowledgment, appreciation and awards, specifically in the workplace? What role should they play? How should they be used?
I want everyone to be supportive of each other. We’re only as strong as our weakest link, so if everyone can pull, help, support—that makes us stronger. I see that a lot with medical crew and pilots and mechanics here. Sometimes a phone call comes in or a question comes up that they know I can handle, but they know the answer so they just take care of it. People’s needs are met as quickly as possible. It’s in everyone’s best interests.
What do you appreciate most about your coworkers?
We know each other, we care about each other, and I think I would have to say that there is mutual respect between everyone here.
I appreciate our location because we see trauma, cardiac, neuro—it’s a big variety of patients that we see. We’re able to get them stabilized here on the coast and get them to definitive care.
What do you consider your leading contribution to the REACH mission of “always do what is right for the patient”?
My philosophy matches REACH’s philosophy, so it’s easy to embrace.
Who’s in your family?
One cat, Son of A Gun III. He’s a six-year old orange tabby.
One of the very special things at our base is that the people here were all employees of Emergency Airlift. Our medical crews, pilots and mechanics are all members of the community, and we want to see this base succeed because of that. We’re known by the hospitals, they are comfortable with us. We’re fortunate to have REACH and fortunate that they are so community oriented. We are just carrying on.