When the Rev. Raye Nell Dyer announced her retirement last summer, she probably wasn’t looking to get back to work as quickly as she did.
Dyer, who served for 21 years as lead chaplain for the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, also served as the volunteer chaplain for Vanderbilt LifeFlight.
Jeanne Yeatman, MBA, BSN, CEN, EMT, associate chief nursing officer for Emergency Services (adult emergency services and LifeFlight), wondered if Dyer would consider semi-retirement.
“I didn’t know if we could find a way forward, but I did see the potential for great things for our staff if we could have someone who was focused only on their well-being,” Yeatman said. “Our goals with the position are multifaceted, but all of the goals center on helping our employees become more resilient and be more engaged.”
Dyer wanted to retire but still be involved and “making a difference.” She worked with Yeatman to find the perfect balance—a new part-time job as the first-ever paid LifeFlight chaplain.
LifeFlight Air Transport Program Director Kevin Nooner added that he had been looking for some different ways to increase employee engagement and to further emphasize its safety culture.
“We do not take our safety culture for granted,” Nooner explained. “It’s something we work on every minute of every day. Our employee well-being and safety is always at the forefront of any decisions that we make.”
Dyer, who started her part-time role in late 2018, is thrilled with how receptive employees have been.
“There just are never enough kudos in this life,” she said. “People need and respond to being acknowledged and affirmed and are strengthened by that.”
She joins a small cadre of other flight chaplains in the U.S. and spends much of her time tending to more than 250 staff members who work at remote locations scattered across East, Middle and West Tennessee.
“The LifeFlight staff see and experience some really difficult situations,” Dyer said. “They stand on the edge of some people’s most difficult, sad and tragic moments. I offer support to them as they encounter tragedy and heartbreak, shift after shift. I offer them a safe place to talk about their thoughts and feelings and sacred space for them to re-group and move forward.”
One of the traditions that she brought with her from Children’s Hospital is the Blessing of the Hands ceremony. She recently conducted a ceremony for the communications center personnel, critical care paramedic students and at a regional educational event.
Dyer has her Ecclesiastical Endorsement with the Alliance of Baptists. She is also a board-certified chaplain with the Association of Professional Chaplains and is a member of the Association of Professional Flight Chaplains.
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