October’s annual Air Medical Transport Conference in Minneapolis served as the backdrop for the introduction of the Association of Professional Flight Chaplains (APFC), a non-profit organization designed to offer spiritual and emotional support for air medical flight crews. Pastor Joseph Love of Williamsport, Md., a registered flight nurse and ordained minister, is one of the association’s founding members.
Love explained that all medical aircrew members have the potential to suffer mild to severe emotional distress stemming from the amount of pain and death they must deal with on a daily basis. But he noticed that flight medical personnel were forced to go outside of the profession for help, usually from people who did not understand their special situations.
"I realized that there was probably a better way to go about helping crewmembers overcome some of the things that happen in the daily life of working in a flight environment," Love told Rotor & Wing. "So, I started to search around the industry to see if there was anything remotely available. The more I searched, the less I found."
Love did, however find Rev Amelie Buchanan, a Presbyterian minister in Colorado who, while not an air medical crewmember herself, had taken a special interest in ministering to air medical professionals. Between the two, they came up with the idea to start the APFC.
"We want to be able to pull from the resources of chaplains, and train and develop and foster-out their already- trained abilities, but give them a sound understanding of what being in the flight environment means," said Love. "We recognize that there’s a really, really high need for this service."
Love said there are only three ordained chaplains at this time. They invite more to join, and encourage lay persons to become involved by contacting them at www.flightchalpain.org.