"Doing what you like is freedom; liking what you do is happiness." These words are included in every e-mail I write. To be able to have them apply while benefiting others is a blessing.
I started Trinity Air Ambulance 12 years ago. An experienced RN, I had been employed as a medical crew member for air ambulance services, and I was disappointed to discover that patient care was not the top priority. I decided to go back to school to become a nurse practitioner. My goal was to start my own air ambulance company with patient care as the priority in the business model.
I received my RN degree in 1989 and practiced nursing for about six months before moving from Vancouver, Canada, to Miami, Fla. The years that followed offered me the diverse experience and opportunity I was looking for in nursing. Working several different nursing positions was the norm for me, which included extensive emergency room experience. Any extra time I had I filled with private duty and visiting nurse opportunities.
While working as an ER nurse, I learned about air ambulance transportation from a colleague who was flying for such a company part time. It wasn't long before I began flying as a medical crew member, too.
As I learned more about this field, including the logistics and financial aspects, I also learned about its shortcomings. I realized there was a separation between management and patient care. The typical air ambulance company was owned and run by businesspeople without any medical background or training. They were largely private charter companies that picked up air ambulance opportunities as a secondary business. That disconnect between medical and aviation practices often resulted in substandard patient care.
I received my BS in nursing in 1997 and my designation as an advanced registered nurse practitioner from the University of Washington in 1999. I spent the next two years as American Airlines' first nurse practitioner, working full time for the company while developing Trinity Air Ambulance. When the company downsized after 9/11, I decided to pursue the air ambulance business full time.
With my two brothers, we began to devote our time and efforts toward further developing Trinity Air Ambulance. Tor, a nurse and former firefighter, is also a pilot and an FAA licensed mechanic. Lars has spent 15 years in international business and trade. We leased our aircraft at the time, and our flight crew consisted of nurses, paramedics and physicians I had worked with in the past, so I could personally attest to their professional qualities and ability. I myself flew on all flights in the beginning.
To this day, I continue to personally select our new employees and staffing configuration on each flight. Our staff ranges from paramedics to physicians, all of whom hold current Florida state licenses. Our medical director is a board-certified cardiologist whom I have known professionally for more than 20 years. He has been involved with Trinity from the very beginning.
Getting started was difficult. Day after day, we received rejections from hospitals and large insurance companies, some of whom required many years of established experience in the air ambulance business. I stopped counting after 30 separate attempts to gain a foothold. The already-established air ambulance companies felt threatened by the newcomer, especially a female with a medical background. Perversely, these rejections and a comment from a local air ambulance company--"You will never get off the ground"--motivated me even more to succeed.
Eventually, I was able to get a contract with an insurance company in the Cayman Islands. That contract built my credibility as, step by step, client by client, the company grew.
In our 12th year, Trinity Air Ambulance has gone from leasing one aircraft to owning and operating two Learjet 35A planes. We are proud of our unblemished safety record, which we can attribute to our personal 24/7 hands-on management and our uncompromising quality of care. A recent state of Florida EMS inspection found no flaws and pointed to Trinity Air Ambulance as an example of how an air ambulance company should be run. We average 12 to 20 flights per month. Our clients include cruise ships, Caribbean governments and travel insurance companies.
Our growth has in large part been a result of referrals and recommendations from clients we have worked with in the past, locally, nationally and internationally. For several years we have worked closely with the travel industry and have been extensively involved with the governments of several Caribbean nations.
It is important to us at Trinity to support people in need. Trinity Air Ambulance was the first aircraft to land in the Cayman Islands bringing food and supplies after Hurricane Ivan in September of 2004. Trinity also donated its aircraft to relocate a 3-month-old baby manatee from the Cayman Islands to Tampa, Fla., in 2005.
During another charity flight, Trinity transported a young boy from Orlando, Fla., to New York. We offered our services after hearing about this boy's condition and his parents' inability to pay for a flight home to New York. From 2005 to 2007, we provided free jet transportation and medical assistance to the producers of A&E's Intervention, ensuring that its patients made it safely to their respective rehabilitation facilities. Trinity Air Ambulance was the first civilian air ambulance to land in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, following the January 2010 earthquake. We were instrumental in evacuating numerous patients from the island at that time.
Trinity Air Ambulance remains a family-run company where personal involvement is paramount. I still fly as a member of our flight crew. Despite my added responsibilities as a businesswoman, I still think of myself primarily as a nurse taking care of my patients.
Inger Lisa Skroder is the founder ofTrinity Air Ambulance, which provides worldwide air transport and ground care ambulance service with a 60-minute liftoff.