Acadian Ambulance opens air medical transport base in Silsbee

Acadian Ambulance is now saving lives by way of land and air. The ambulance service headquartered in Lafayette, Louisiana, now employs an air medical transport team, manning a Eurocopter EC135 helicopter based in Silsbee. Air Med Station – Silsbee is at 2580 Nerren Lane.
Air Med Services also has bases of operation in Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Alexandria, Houma, Lake Charles and New Orleans. Whether inland, offshore or in-hospital, Air Med Services first-response range stretches 150 miles.
The Air Med Station – Silsbee team, which consists of a pilot, paramedic and flight nurse, responds to medical emergencies in 10 Texas counties. The team employs the paramedics and nurses, and the pilot is a contract worker.
“In helicopter operations, we own the aircraft, we employ the paramedics and we contract Metro Aviation out of Shreveport and they supply the pilots, mechanics, all the repair services, and all of the aircraft configuration and maintenance and everything that goes along with that including pilot training, FAA checkrides — they do everything,” said Marc Creswell, Air Med operations manager at Acadian Air Med Station – Silsbee. “They are a very large operator, and their expenses are scaled back because they already have a lot of that infrastructure in place. … We’ve been with Metro since 2000, and we currently have about 32 of those pilots and about 28 mechanics that work for us.”
Creswell said the Silsbee team has responded to more than 80 requests for emergency service since they began operations May 1.
“We’re averaging somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 calls a week,” he said.
Although each team consists of three people, the Air Med Station – Silsbee team employs three full-time flight paramedics, three RNs and three reserve paramedics (PRN).
Working on air medical transport helicopters is a “dream job” for many nurses and medics but isn’t an easy one to land.
“We don’t advertise often,” Creswell said. “A lot of the staff in Louisiana — there’s 15-20 years that they’ve been on the aircraft. It’s very stagnant over there, which is good. You’ve got a lot of people trying to get on. … You’ve got about 1,900 paramedics trying to get in one or two spots a year. So we’ve got a good selection to pick from, but it’s not very often that we pick.”
What does it take to get on the Air Med team?
“We’re looking for at least 3-5 years as a paramedic and/or a nurse,” Creswell said. “We’re looking for some critical care experience. We’re looking for some advance certifications — CCEMTP (Critical Care Emergency Medical Transport Program)

certified flight nurse — CEN (Certified Emergency Nurse) and TNCC (Trauma Nursing Core Course). … No doubt we would definitely look for people with flight experience but trying to find people in the general area that have previous flight experience is not very easy.”
Medical team members work in 24-hour shifts and are off 48-hours after their shift. Pilots work 12-hour shifts.
Vital Signs had an opportunity to speak to Flight Paramedic Benjamin McKee, 30, of Beaumont; Flight Nurse Ana Platero, 30, of Nederland and Flight Paramedic Krystal Cole, 24, of Beaumont about their jobs with the Air Med Station – Silsbee team.
Platero, who was an ER nurse prior to working on the team, said adjusting to the helicopter has come with a steep learning curve.
“They have everything that you would pretty much need in an emergency room in this tiny space,” she said. “It’s nice because you have everything within hand’s reach, but you have to know your aircraft. You have to get in there every day and look at your stuff; that way you know where everything that you need is located. … Every day when we get to work, we check our helicopter and make sure we have everything because you don’t want to get up there and not have what you need.”
McKee was a paramedic on an Acadian Ambulance crew before he became part of the Air Med Station – Silsbee team.
“When they told me the Air Med helicopter was coming to Silsbee, I decided to give it a shot and see how it went,” McKee said. “I thought it would be good experience and a good learning opportunity. … One of my neighbors, back in the day, had a Cessna that he’d take us up in, so I knew I would enjoy the helicopter.
“Flying in a helicopter is completely different than an ambulance. … The helicopter is a lot more noisy and there are a lot more distractions to your patient care, so you really have to stay focused on your primary role. You also have to be cognizant of working around the aircraft and the dangers that it can present. You have to learn how to interact with the pilot and with the public. It’s a whole different role than being a paramedic on the streets. It’s a whole different world that you step into.”
McKee said working with his flight nurse team members allows him to become a better paramedic.
“As a critical care paramedic, you’re at the top of your game, but your game only goes so far. Working with a nurse, I have someone I can bounce ideas off of that has a lot more formal education background than I do and knows a lot more about anatomy, physiology and the drugs.”
McKee participated in the Hurricane Charlie Readiness Exercise in June on behalf of Acadian. First responders across the area performed drills to perfect evacuation efforts and disseminate information to ready local residents for a quick exit if evacuation becomes mandatory during hurricane season.
Cole, who started out as a paramedic on an ambulance, said she wanted to be a firefighter when she was in EMT school. But when an air medical transport team visited her school, she fell in love with the idea of working on a helicopter.
“I really didn’t want anything to do with an ambulance, but when I saw the helicopter I thought it was the coolest thing,” she said. “Since the beginning, it’s always been a dream for me.”
And after serving her time on an ambulance, her dream became a reality.
Cole had an opportunity to show off the EC135 at the Orange County Cops N Kids Picnic at Claiborne West Park in Vidor on June 10.
“It was one of the largest PR events we’ve done since we’ve been in service,” she said. “It really makes the kids’ day. … For the kids that are excited about the helicopter, it’s great to teach them that there are also dangers with it, and for the kids that are shy, it’s nice to be able to tell them that we’re here to help them. You shouldn’t be afraid of us. It was really awesome to be a part of that and mold their experience.”

Photo by Kevin King