Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Leadership Studies


Leadership Studies

Committee Chair

Cash, Deanna B.

Committee Member

Gossler, Sandra M.

Committee Member

Mayhew, Mary Ann A.


As frontline providers of care, flight nurses are continuously exposed to traumatic patient care events; they are, accordingly, highly vulnerable to the injurious effects of compassion fatigue. Flight nursing is an exclusive nursing specialty in which highly trained registered nurses provide comprehensive pre-hospital, emergency, and critical care to patients with urgent or life-threatening conditions aboard helicopter or fixed wing aircraft or, when necessary due to unfavorable weather conditions, by ground ambulance. The purpose of this study was to explore the lived experiences of five flight nurses; to better understand the factors they perceived to be contributors or barriers to compassion fatigue resilience in the medical flight environment. The descriptive phenomenology of Husserl and the methodological interpretation of Colaizzi supported the discovery of abundant narrative data that offered a rare view of flight nursing practice including characteristics and values of flight nurses, coping strategies flight nurses employed to resist compassion fatigue, and barriers to job satisfaction in the medical flight environment. Purposeful sampling was utilized to select participants employed in a Level Two trauma facility in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States. Face-to-face interviews provided rich description of the flight nurse role including multiple variables that influenced flight nurses’ capacity to stay. Twenty-three cluster themes and seven emergent themes emerged from the narrative dataset as the flight nurse participants described their experiences with traumatic patient care events and the strategies they employed to manage secondary stress. Emergent themes included Self-Efficacy, Self-Determination, Traumatic Caring, Forbearance, Professional Isolation, Heart, and Finding Meaning.