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Frequent flyer Grubbs set to retire from LifeFlight

Dec. 17, 2015, 10:01 AM

by Jerry Jones

After 31 years and nearly 6,000 patient flights, LifeFlight’s Tom Grubbs has decided to hang up his helmet and retire.

Tom Grubbs, R.N., EMT

Grubbs, 62, joined the program shortly after it began in July 1984, at a time when flight nursing was a new field for civilian nurses. Since that time he has watched Vanderbilt LifeFlight transport more than 35,000 patients and grow from a single helicopter to a program that covers Middle and West Tennessee, Southern Kentucky and Northern Alabama with six helicopters, an airplane and four ground ambulances.

“For many flight nurses reaching 1,000 patient flights is a career highlight,” said Lis Henley, RN, EMT, BSN, director of LifeFlight. “To reach almost 6,000 is probably more than anyone else in civilian flight nursing history. Tom has been a true lifesaver to so many people and touched so many lives. We have been blessed and enriched to have him be a part of our team.”

Grubbs has been a registered nurse for 35 years and a licensed EMS provider for 41 years. He received his nursing training and graduated in 1977, and went on to receive his BSN in nursing from the University of Alabama in Huntsville in 1990. He started in EMS in 1973 with Ellis Funeral Home, then joined the Metro Nashville Fire/EMS Department in 1974.

He came to Vanderbilt in 1980, and joined as a Flight Nurse/EMT with LifeFlight in 1984.

“The medical and technical advances in nursing and emergency medicine have been amazing over the last 40 years,” he said.

“But you can’t ever forget that human touch. As a flight nurse we are spending time with people in what is probably some of the worst moments of their life. We can do more now to save their life than ever before.”

And while Grubbs is retiring from the field of flight nursing, he’s not putting down his stethoscope. He plans on taking the knowledge that he has gained over the last 40 years and applying it to teaching.

“I’m looking forward to working with some overseas nursing schools on a part-time basis, and having the opportunity to share some of what I have learned,” he said. “I also hope to keep writing for some nursing publications and do a lot more church work.”

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