Whether she’s facing unexpected emergencies at work or anywhere else, Shelley Lynch says it’s all about the patient.
As the practicing critical care nurse was collecting her baggage at Logan Airport four years ago, she noticed an airport employee on the floor in cardiac arrest. Lynch’s nursing instincts took over, and she saved the man’s life.
After Lynch confirmed that someone had called 911, she checked the man for a pulse, called for a defibrillator, and began CPR. As she administered compressions, the man went from sheet white to pink. When the defibrillator arrived, Lynch directed and worked with the Massachusetts State Police to shock the patient, keeping him alive until paramedics arrived. As she was leaving, a police officer asked her name and where she worked.
Lynch, now a full-time lecturer in the College of Nursing, never learned the man’s name. But her efforts earned her a nomination as a Nurse Hero by Nurse.org for the First-Pitch Nurse Hero contest sponsored by the Boston Red Sox. She was among 1,400 nominees and one of 10 finalists who were honored this spring as Nurse Heroes during the annual Nurse Appreciation Night at Fenway Park.
“I have resuscitated so many people in the hospital in critical care. I’ve also taught thousands of healthcare professionals how to perform basic life support and advanced cardiac life support as an American Heart Association instructor,” said Lynch. “At the moment when this man was put in the ambulance with a pulse, without the protection of my scrubs and tools, I was in shock and just cried.”
Many accolades received for heroism
Lynch doesn’t know who nominated her for the Nurse Hero award, but it was one of many accolades she received for her heroic act.
Lynch was honored at the airport by the Massachusetts Port Authority, where she met the police officers who assisted her that day. The award was presented by former Red Sox star David Ortiz. The Massachusetts State Police awarded her with a lifesaving badge on the steps of the State House, and she received citations from former Governor Deval Patrick, the State Senate, and House of Representatives.
But it was the Red Sox award that was most exciting for Lynch and her husband, Chad. Their three young sons watched the ceremony from home.
“We were all lined up on the field around the mound in matching nursing scrubs with our last names on the back of the scrub shirts. We were introduced and they told our story. It was fun to hear UMass Dartmouth announced at Fenway Park,” Lynch said. “This is definitely one of those moments that will be with me forever for doing nothing more than focusing on the patient.”
The May 15 game was not the first time Lynch was on the field at the historic ballpark. Through her ICU work at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, a sponsor of the Red Sox, Lynch has worked as a ballpark nurse. She spent a few seasons behind home plate, the Green Monster, and at the first aid station caring for fans.
Meeting the need for CPR training
Lynch’s airport experience inspired her to create the ACLS (advanced cardiac life support) Academy, an American Heart Association training site in Quincy, MA, that teaches CPR to groups and individuals ranging from healthcare professionals to the Girl Scouts. Some 14 certified instructors provide classes at the center and at hospitals, schools, and health clinics.
“I realized that we need to continue to train the public and make sure people have good solid education offered by the American Heart Association so they know how to help when a sudden cardiac arrest happens,” said Lynch.
Advocate for online and global health education
Lynch has worked at UMass Dartmouth since 2016, as an ICU nurse at Beth Israel in Boston for 10 years, and as a nurse practitioner at Freccero Medical Associates in Brockton.
She also volunteered in March of 2017 and 2018 with Partners in Development in Haiti to care for patients as a family nurse practitioner at a clinic in Port-au-Prince. The clinic is staffed by the Haitian medical community and is assisted by UMass Dartmouth junior nursing students. College of Nursing faculty members, Paula Walsh and Kathleen Elliott, support the clinic and provide well-child checkups.
Lynch is helping to build courses in the global health concentration in the College of Nursing’s online master of science program.
“When the Ebola virus came to the United States, it was clear that there are no boundaries when it comes to the health of people,” said Lynch.
She is also teaching four online classes this summer. “Our online programs are a way to raise all of our nurses to the next level with asynchronous nursing classes,” added Lynch.
She plans to take a small group of students from the UMassD Second Degree Accelerated BS in Nursing program to Glendora, MS with Partners in Development this fall.
“The UMassD program is really comprehensive. I’m in awe of the nursing faculty that I work with. We have great leadership from the department chairs and Dean Kimberly Christopher. We each have our specialty and, as a whole, we have a really strong nursing faculty.”
Lynch holds a bachelor of science degree in nursing from Hartwick College, a master of science degree in nursing education from Grand Canyon University, and a certificate of advanced graduate studies as a family nurse practitioner from the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.