Flights of Mercy
Flying Nurses escorts approximately 300 patients worldwide a year
You’ve heard of “The Flying Nun,” but what about flying nurses? While they may not don the nun’s habit and wing-tipped coronet that allowed Sally Fields to take off in the popular ’60s television show, the modern-day counterparts are just as flight-savvy. Hawaii-based Flying Nurses International LLC was founded in 1996 by Amy Bosich to provide worldwide travel assistance to individuals requiring medical attention while traveling. After 12 years as a trauma intensive care nurse at Queen’s Medical Center, Bosich realized that travel options for patients with special needs were expensive, inadequate and difficult to find.
Aside from a handful of nurse agencies that provide nurses but do little in the way of planning and coordinating, and the inter-island transportation Hawaii Ambulance, patients are basically left to fend for themselves once discharged from a hospital.
“The most common situation is that a tourist gets injured in an accident or has a stroke or heart attack and they don’t know how to get home,” says Bosich.
Services cost an average of $3,000 to $7,000 for commercial travel, depending on the destination, and upwards of $70,000 for assistance on a private plane – although Bosich says private plane bookings are unusual. She and her staff coordinate all of the patient’s needs, including ground transportation, special equipment, oxygen, stretchers, tickets, insurance payments, medical orders and medical clearances.Bosich is the company’s only full-time employee, but she contracts about 65 nurses based in Hawaii, Philadelphia, Seattle and Alaska to escort roughly 250 to 300 patients worldwide a year. Two years ago, prior to expanding to the U.S. mainland, she had only 25 employees averaging about 60 trips per year.
Roxanne Rosen contracted Flying Nurses to assist her father to California. He was suffering from a bout of pneumonia. “Besides being nurses, they have to make all of the arrangements and expedite travel plans,” she says.
Bosich says efficiency is key in her business, as patients’ arrangements are usually made within 24- to 48-hour notice. Over the years Bosich has developed relationships with hospitals and vendors, which has helped to streamline the process. She regularly works with Kahala-based Regal Travel for flight accommodations. “Sometimes we can offer discounts of up to 40 percent by using bulk fares,” says Aline Steiner, who handles Flying Nurses’ account for Regal Travel. Even with the added pressure of time constraints, Bosich has strict requirements for the nurses she hires.
All nurses are required to be practicing registered nurses that have experience in intensive care or emergency room care. In addition, they go through extensive flight physiology training – similar to the training pilots and flight attendants go through – because there are a lot of changes the body goes through when traveling at altitude.
“Sure you could have just any nurse go, but what does she know about flight physiology? What kind of liability insurance is she covering? What if they get stuck on a layover and the oxygen isn’t there?” Bosich says. “Sometimes people think a nurse is a nurse is a nurse, but the service we provide is really a specialty.”