St. Vincent HELP Flight Celebrates 40 Years of Care in the Air
Billings, MT - Since 1979, the St. Vincent HELP Flight program has provided air transportation for seriously ill or injured patients throughout our region. The program was truly a pioneer in air medical services.
“The rural nature of Montana lends itself to needing the ability to get out to people a long distance away to get them to a place like Billings,” said St. Vincent HELP Flight Chief Flight Nurse, Chad Cady. “We were in the top 10 in the nation actually for starting a hospital-based helicopter services. So we were fairly early into the business.”
“People on the flight team, they were the ultimate place to be,” recalled St. Vincent HELP Flight Paramedic, Scott Miller. “They were the best trained and I wanted to be that person.”
Miller has enjoyed a long career with St. Vincent HELP Flight; celebrating 25 years this year.
“The ability to take care of patients is obviously the most important and it’s something that brings a lot of personal satisfaction in the sense that I can do something to make someone’s day a little bit better – typically when they’re having one of the worst days in their life,” said fellow flight paramedic, Stephanie Rickbeil. Rickbeil has been with St. Vincent HELP Flight for 16 years, along with Cady.
The St. Vincent air medical program includes both a fixed-wing aircraft and a helicopter. The fixed-wing aircraft transports patients throughout the country, while the helicopter transports patients within a 150 mile radius of Billings.
In addition to transporting adult and pediatric patients, the flight team also has specially trained teams for transporting high-risk pregnancies and premature and full-term babies in need of specialty care. Ever evolving and always improving, HELP Flight has come a long way in the past 40 years. Especially, the aircraft.
“When we started out they were not as complex and sophisticated as they are now,” Miller pointed out.“We’ve made a lot of changes with safety and a lot of changes with communication and our abilities.”
“We had a couple of tragedies early on and we’ve really tried to build our program safety-wise based on learning from those experiences,” Cady explained. “It’s one of the primary resources that we can offer to our community.”
“When you look at the rest of the country, other areas are not served in the same way that this area is served,” added Rickbeil.
Providing that resource and serving those in critical need, is what drives the team to excellence.
“We try to be as safe as we possibly can and we try to get to every patient that we possibly can,” Miller explained.
“Every decision that we make, whether it be a safety thing, a piece of equipment, the crew configuration is all based on what is best for that patient and I honestly believe from the depths of my heart that that’s what sets us apart and makes us a great program,” Rickbeil said.
The program serves central, south central, and eastern Montana as well as northern Wyoming and western North and South Dakota. The team also has the ability to transport patients to larger medical hubs like Denver, Colorado; Salt Lake City, Utah; Seattle, Washington and Rochester, Minnesota.
“I think it really shows the committment that St. Vincent has had to the community and surrounding communities,” stated Cady. “We’re all very proud of what we do.”
“Being able to help the outlying agencies and rural facilities really makes a big difference,” added Miller. “To be able to do this for a living is pretty cool.”
SCL Health is a faith-based, nonprofit healthcare organization dedicated to improving the health of the people and communities we serve. Founded by the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth in 1864, our health network provides comprehensive, coordinated care through eight hospitals, more than 180 physician clinics, home health, hospice, mental health, and safety-net services in Colorado and the Montana Wyoming region.