Saving patients in the hospital setting wasn’t enough for Laurel Ridge alumna Carolyn Trent. The registered nurse, who is now a flight nurse, is also a volunteer paramedic in Clarke County.
Trent originally hoped to study nursing at the University of Virginia. When she didn’t get into the university, she had to regroup, which she did. And then some. She enrolled in Northern Virginia Community College and earned her associate degree in nursing in 2013.
“Enrolling in an associate degree program worked out really well because I was able to pay my way through school and get my RN license faster and then finish my bachelor’s degree without having to take out any loans,” said Trent, who earned her BSN from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2015.
She worked in the emergency departments at both Reston Hospital Center and Winchester Medical Center. It was her nursing career that inspired her to further her rescue training. Trent had earned her emergency medical technician license in 2010 – the same year she graduated from Loudoun County High School.
After moving to the Bluemont area, she began volunteering with Blue Ridge Volunteer Fire and Rescue Co. She grew frustrated one day after realizing she couldn’t provide the level of treatment to a patient during a call that she would be qualified to provide in the hospital setting because she was still an EMT. That’s when Trent decided to enroll at Laurel Ridge Community College.
“I was the first person who went through the RN to paramedic bridge program at the college,” she said. “I graduated in 2017 with a certificate. I really enjoyed the program, especially working with the manikins and learning a new skillset. In the hospital, nurses can’t intubate patients, but for paramedics, it’s a necessary skill.
“There were seven of us in the paramedic program and we’re still friends today. We still see other and text and talk.”
The following year, Trent’s friend sent her a job posting for a flight nurse role, which is how she started working for PHI Air Medical based out of the Front Royal-Warren County Airport.
“I love taking care of the critical care patients in the emergency room, so this seemed like a good step for me,” she said. “Our base typically does one to three flights a day.”
The aircare team transports patients between hospitals, as well as from, say, the scene of a crash on I-81 to various trauma centers depending on the types of injuries.
“It’s very patient-dependent,” said Trent, adding she’s flown with patients to farther-flung locations, such as Baltimore, Morgantown, W.V., Philadelphia and Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C. “I love the job because I get to see some of the most critically-ill and injured patients. We have a huge scope of practice, so we can really make a difference for the patients who need us. I also love having a partner to work alongside of as well.”
She continues to volunteer at the fire department where she is a rescue captain, and hopes to keep working as a flight nurse for as long as she is physically able. Trent is currently not flying as she waits the birth of her first child this spring.
Learn more about the paramedic program at laurelridge.edu/paramedic.
Laurel Ridge Community College was known as Lord Fairfax Community College until June 2022. For consistency purposes, the college will be referenced as Laurel Ridge going forward.