Aiming High – Taking to the Skies as an Air Force Flight Nurse

A combined passion for nursing and serving her country led Hannah Pavlisin ’18 to bring her skills to the Air Force. As a flight nurse, 1st Lt. Pavlisin plays a critical role in aeromedical evacuation operations around the world for the military.

“Because we do not routinely fly with a doctor, as the flight nurse I am the senior medical provider on board,” Pavlisin said. “This is important because I have to use my clinical judgement to determine if the patients are stable enough for flight.”

One of her most challenging missions began in California, with consecutive flights to Hawaii, Guam, Japan, back to Hawaii and finishing in California.

“This was an exhausting mission but all patients were evac’d safely and mission was accomplished. We crossed a lot of time zones and at one point even crossed the international date line so I got to see 2 sunrises that day.”

Alongside providing acute care for patients during these evacuation flights, she faces additional challenges that her ground-based counterparts would not encounter – such as coordinating with pilots to maintain appropriate altitude based on patient condition.

She recalled her first mission, during which her patient became distressed during transit. Thanks to a combination of her training and experience, she and her team intervened positively to enable a successful result.

“So while this change in nursing environment was a bit stressful at first, I ultimately knew I could depend on my entire team to get the job done,” she said.

Pavlisin is grateful for the two years she spent in emergency medicine after graduating in nursing before joining the Air Force. “My experience working in the ER provided a lot of autonomy and practice with quick assessment and clinical decision-making skills,” she said. “I think this helped me to stay calm and not become overwhelmed. I still get to moonlight in the ER to keep my skills sharp.”

Born – literally – into the Air Force at Andrews Air Force Base, Hannah Pavlisin seemed destined for this career path. Hannah’s mother spent part of her highly-decorated career as a flight nurse.

“I always knew I wanted to join the Air Force because both of my parents served and I was proud of the culture and tradition that it provided. I wanted to do more. Now that I have my wings, I love to share my mission and flying experiences with her and hear about all that has changed since when she flew.”

The nursing gene runs even deeper in the family, as Hannah’s younger sister and fellow Bradley nursing graduate Sarah Pavlisin ’21 works in the neonatal intensive care unit at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital in St. Louis.

“I couldn’t be more proud of her for following our parents’ footsteps,” said the younger Pavlisin. “The military has been an important aspect of our lives since we were born.”

Her older sister concurred. “I loved my upbringing in a dual-military household so I feel that I’m coming full circle and am humbled by the opportunity to give back to this community,” she added.

So what does the future hold for the newly-promoted first lieutenant?

“Home is where the Air Force sends you,” a 10-year-old Hannah once told Air Force media back in 2006. Fast forward 15 years later, “That quote still rings true to this day.”

– Mel Huang