ShandsCair flight nurse lauded for grace under pressure

 Photo by Jesse Jones

Press release from UF Health


GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Performing advanced, lifesaving procedures in an emergency situation is common and expected for many nurses. Continuing to tend to a patient after they are no longer in your care is a rarity.

This is exactly what Jeffrey Schultz, flight nurse for the ShandsCair Critical Care Transport Team at UF Health Shands Hospital, did after he led his team in saving a critically ill pediatric burn patient in the field and in the air.

Because of his compassionate care and outstanding efforts, Schultz was awarded the individual 2023 DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nurses in Patient Safety.

Schultz and his paramedic partner at the time, John East, received the call to transport a pediatric patient with second- and third-degree burns on more than 70% of his body. The patient’s airway was blocked, which meant Schultz and East had to perform a lifesaving procedure called a cricothyrotomy (like a tracheotomy but higher on the neck) to allow the child to take in air. The patient had to be intubated, but the burns necessitated a more unorthodox method for inserting the tube, called retrograde intubation. Even with those measures, the injuries were so dire that they had to cut through tissue on the patient’s chest — called an escharotomy — to allow the lungs to expand and contract.

While these advanced procedures are a part of ShandsCair protocols, this was no ordinary day on the job.

“Jeff saved this child’s life, and, moreover, he did it in truly impressive fashion,” East said. “His performance and composure have inspired me to increase my continued efforts to be the type of clinician that he is.”

Not only did Schultz, East, and their team work quickly to care for the patient while on the ground and in flight to the UF Health Shands Hospital ICU, but Schultz also continually checked in on the patient in the hospital — eventually presenting the patient with a ShandsCair T-Shirt. To this day, Schultz stays in touch with the patient and family.

After the patient recovered, Schultz used the experience as an opportunity to help train colleagues. He presented the case study at two critical care interprofessional conferences.

Schultz, a member of ShandsCair for over 12 years, cares for critical pre-hospital patients during air transport, requiring him to function in extremely stressful situations. As part of a helicopter EMS program, patient safety is a priority — practicing safety protocols, situational awareness drills, and continuing medical education helps the program deliver the best possible patient care.

“Jeffrey’s effective communication, advanced clinical capabilities, and excellent interpersonal skills make him a role model for his peers and colleagues,” said Irene Alexaitis, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, UF Health Shands Hospital’s chief nursing officer and nursing and patient services vice president.

Schultz’s eight nursing certifications and string of professional memberships, including the Society of Critical Care Medicine, the American College of Chest Physicians, Extracorporeal Life Support, the American Critical Care Nurses Association, and the Air & Surface Transport Nurses Association, are impressive and illustrate his dedication to continuous learning, Alexaitis added.

In addition to his role as a direct care flight nurse, Schultz practices as an acute care nurse practitioner, specializing in critical care management of cardiovascular ICU patients. He played an instrumental role in caring for patients on ECMO, a type of artificial life support that can help a person whose lungs and heart aren’t functioning correctly, especially during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

His colleagues credit him with consistently lifting up his teammates through clinical and personal mentorship. He’s compassionate and always reliable, they say.

“It is truly an incredible honor to be recognized by IHI and the DAISY Foundation,” Schultz said. “I am appreciative of all that I have been able to accomplish, the high level of care I can provide to my patients, and how I can continue to give back to the profession. I am thrilled to represent UF Health and my fellow ShandsCair family with this award.”

In its ninth year, the DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nurses in Patient Safety, conferred by the DAISY Foundation in collaboration with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, or IHI, honors individual nurses and clinical teams for their commitment to patient and workforce safety. The team award was given to the hemodialysis team at Audie L. Murphy Memorial Veterans’ Hospital in San Antonio.

More than 5,800 healthcare facilities and nursing schools across the U.S. and 37 countries participate in the DAISY Award program. Nearly 17,000 nurses and nurse-led teams, first honored within their own organizations between January 2021 and June 2022, were eligible for the 2023 DAISY Awards.

Schultz will receive the DAISY Award at this year’s IHI Patient Safety Congress, which takes place May 22-24 in National Harbor, Maryland.

  • Wow! That is an amazing story. He is a Hero. Shands is so blessed to have him on staff. So thankful that the child’s life was saved. What a stressful job. People that have those jobs are born with extraordinary wisdom, patience, and huge hearts. So grateful for Mr. Schultz. Thank you for sharing this beautiful story. Brought a smile and a tear to my face today.

    • Totally agree! Saluting all the medical staff, especially the pilots, who are on call at a moment’s notice, to fly out in any weather to help the injured.

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