WSU grad keeps skills sharp at Calamityville

For Greene County News

FAIRBORN — Tami Ashbridge has cared for patients while flying in a helicopter, worked in a fast-paced ER and taught advance disaster life support classes. She’s also fought in taekwondo competitions, likes to kickbox and is training for a half-marathon.

So you shouldn’t be surprised when Ashbridge describes herself as an “adrenaline junkie.”

Staying so active helps her stay disciplined and provides single-mindedness.

“When you’re doing these things that are adrenaline-focused they’re all you can focus on,” said Ashbridge, a registered nurse who works as a health care risk manager at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Medical Center. “On a daily basis there are 500 things running through my mind at any given moment. But when I’m fighting or doing something like that, that’s all you can think of or you’re going to get hurt.”

Ashbridge’s latest adrenaline rush came during a recent National Disaster Health Consortium (NHDC) training, which is offered by the Wright State University College of Nursing and Health in collaboration with the university’s National Center for Medical Readiness (NCMR).

NHDC is an interprofessional disaster training program for health care professionals, including nurses and doctors, and first responders. Professionals enrolled in the program take a series of online courses then undergo intensive training at NCMR’s Calamityville, a 52-acre disaster training zone with concrete passageway-filled buildings, silos, tunnels, ponds, cliffs and wooded areas.

Ashbridge was not only a student in the National Disaster Health Consortium. She also serves on its advisory panel and co-wrote a module on ethics and law for the program.

NDHC’s interprofessional design gives participants valuable perspectives from others in different fields and can help you perform better in an emergency, she said.

“If everybody and everything is working in concert like it should the patient has the best experience and the safest experience. That’s the most important thing,” she said.

For Ashbridge, being prepared to assist others in an emergency is a “way to help people who have lost total control through no fault of their own.”

“Even the smallest disaster can change people’s lives in huge ways — the loss of their home, the loss of their property, security, stability,” she said.

Though she has never personally been affected by a disaster, Ashbridge has a keen interest in disaster response and preparedness.

She has a Master of Public Health (M.P.H.), with dual concentrations in management and emergency preparedness, from the Wright State Boonshoft School of Medicine. She is currently working on a Ph.D. on health care ethics at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. Her dissertation will focus on the ethics of disaster response.

She got into nursing as a member of the Ohio Army National Guard. The Guard sent her first to obtain a Licensed Practical Nurse degree in an active duty status, and she later took advantage of tuition assistance to complete her Registered Nursing degree.

Her first deployment was responding to a prison riot in Lucasville, where she worked alongside law enforcement personnel who were managing the situation. She recalled being impressed with how all the first responders and Guardmen had to work together to achieve a positive outcome.

Ashbridge spent several years in the National Guard, then went active duty in the Army. She was stationed at Fort Campbell, Ky., where she worked in intensive care and patient transport at Blanchfield Army Community Hospital.

After she left the Army, she continued working at Blanchfield Army Community Hospital as a triage nurse and in the Newborn Nursery and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

“I have a true passion for taking care of others. I was raised to believe that you’re here to serve others,” she said.

Eventually Ashbridge returned to Ohio and started working at the Wright-Patterson Medical Center in 2000 as a case manager in the internal medicine department. She currently is a health care risk manager responsible for decreasing liability and ensuring the hospital provides the safest care possible.

“I do have an opportunity here to have an impact on all of our patients and try to make that experience better,” she said. “That’s the part that keeps me motivated in this job.”

Because she now works in an administrative position, Ashbridge does not get to care for patients regularly.

It’s another reason why she volunteers at the National Center for Medical Readiness and participated in the NDCH.

Ashbridge first started working with NCMR while working on her M.P.H., before Calamityville opened. She is now an adjunct faculty member and has taught advance disaster life support classes.

Teaching and participating in the NDHC helps her practice her nursing and disaster response skills.

“This is fun stuff,” Ashbridge said. “I have to wear heels and a skirt all day. When I get to come here, I can put jeans on and crawl around in the dirt.”

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