Haugen named UW Tacoma Distinguished Alum

Krista Haugen, co-founder of the Survivors Network for Air and Surface Medical Transport, has been selected as the 2012 recipient of the University of Washington Tacoma’s Distinguished Alumni Award.

The 43-year-old Haugen is a former flight nurse with Airlift Northwest. She founded the Survivors Network to develop ways to support the needs of air and ground medical transport crewmembers who survive crashes while on duty.

Haugen’s journey to co-founding Survivors Network began on Oct. 28, 2005, when she reported for duty at Airlift 3, south of Seattle.

“It was anything but a normal day of work because just one month prior we lost three crew members when Airlift 4 crashed into Puget Sound and our hearts were still heavy,” she recalled. After picking up a patient in Olympia, Haugen’s helicopter lost lift as it was taking off from a hospital rooftop and crashed.

“I knew the potential outcomes as I’d taken care of hundreds of trauma patients,” said Haugen, who has 15 years of experience as an emergency/critical care nurse. “Words like ‘impalement’ and ‘blunt force trauma’ bounced through my head. So when we finally impacted on the ground after what seemed an eternity, I was stunned but cautiously ecstatic to realize that we were all alive.”

Surviving the crash left Haugen with post-traumatic stress and a desire to both find ways to prevent future crashes and help the survivors.

Survivors Network is currently undertaking a qualitative research project in partnership with the Center for Medical Transport Research and the MedEvac Foundation International to examine the experiences of Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS) crash survivors. The organization is also developing a comprehensive database of air medical crash survivors to help survivors network and share resources as they recover. The organization’s Facebook page is also a resource to crash survivors who wish to connect with others.

Haugen was nominated for the award by Lisa Davidson, who serves as a flight nurse for Airlift Northwest and has also been a clinical instructor and lecturer at UW Tacoma.

“I nominated [Krista] for her amazing dedication and work in the Survivors Network and for what she offers in future best practice studies,” said Davidson. She was impressed with Haugen’s ability to utilize the skills gained from her MN at UW Tacoma, to move the Survivors Network project forward. “Krista has identified a gap and is working to close it by providing support to survivors of air medical crashes. I hope some day to use her observations on safety, culture, air medical crew communication, and working environment to guide the curriculum that we will use to educate new flight nurses at Airlift Northwest.”

“Where my education from UW Tacoma has really come into play is in these efforts to create the Survivors Network,” said Haugen. “Building something out of nothing is an immense challenge, as is helping to change the culture of an industry, and really, society as a whole as we rethink how we deal with people, particularly emergency services providers, who have endured physical and psychological trauma. I hope UW Tacoma and the Nursing Program see that through their students they are making a difference in communities, industries, and globally.”