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Get to Know: Jeff Richey, Executive Director of Airlift Northwest


(Far right) Jeff Richey, flight nurse, and Airlift Northwest crew during a patient transport. Photo taken before COVID-19 pandemic.


Jeff Richey, RN, has been appointed as executive director of Airlift Northwest, effective Dec. 16, 2020. He has been in the interim role since March 1, 2020 and has more than 40 years of experience, including eight years as senior executive for clinical and ancillary services, 12 years in leadership for air medical transport systems and 26 years as a critical care nurse.

As executive director, he is looking forward to expanding Airlift’s footprint in the region to meet the demands for access to care in times of medical crisis, oversee community outreach and advance education efforts about the vital role Airlift plays in providing emergency medical transportation services throughout the region.

He will also continue to serve as UW Medical Center’s associate administrator with oversight of Laboratory Medicine and Radiology at both UW Medical Center campuses.

Let’s get to know him

Q: What about your career might surprise people?

A: I have spent my entire career at UW Medicine. I started as a medical assistant at UW Medical Center ­– Montlake in the Emergency Department in 1990, worked as a nurse in the Emergency Department, intensive care unit (ICU), neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and as a STAT nurse. Then I transitioned to Airlift as a flight nurse and regional manager. I have spent the last eight years as an executive at UW Medical Center – Northwest, UW Medical Center – Montlake and now back at Airlift.

Q: What will your experience as a flight nurse at Airlift bring to the job? 

A: My experience on the front line as a flight nurse is important for this job and is one of my career experiences that I am most proud of.

I know what it is like to be at a scene of an accident, treating patients in the San Juan Islands where the only medical personnel are the volunteer emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics. I also know what it is like to sit at an airport in Southeast Alaska waiting for the weather to clear so we can get a patient to UW Medicine.

Q: Why are you excited about your new role as executive director of Airlift?

A: First off, I am so excited to have the opportunity to be in this position. When I was building on my experience at UW Medical Center – Montlake as a nurse, my number one goal was to be a flight nurse with Airlift. Little did I know that as a I moved into leadership positions at Airlift and then into executive positions at UW Medical Center – Montlake, I was gaining the leadership qualities to take Airlift to the next level.

Airlift has always been a leader in air medical transport, and I am excited to build on that reputation by being the only academic air medical program in the Washington, Alaska, Montana and Idaho region and to bring the care and medical expertise of UW Medicine to these areas.

Q: How do you manage your responsibilities at both UW Medical Center campuses with Airlift? 

A: I am able to juggle these responsibilities because I have incredible leaders on my team like Dawn Vincic, Julie Del Moro, Brett Norquist, Roy Brock, Brenda Nelson and Steve LeMay.

If I did not have these transformational leaders on my team this position would be a lot harder.

Q: How would you describe your leadership style?

A: I am a transparent leader. I value transformation and want to challenge my team to create innovation in our departments.

I also believe in constant communication to make sure everyone from my leadership team to front-line workers are informed.

And lastly, I am dedicated to helping our leaders grow by committing to leadership development education — either through mentoring MHA (master of health administration) students or helping to create curriculum for the Leadership Development Institute.

Q: What’s it like taking over this role during a pandemic?

A: Since I had already been working with teams at UW Medical Center on this, it was an easy transition for me. I am fortunate to have already worked with most of the leaders at Airlift and we were able to start planning our strategy to weather the pandemic.

Q: What has been your favorite activity during the pandemic? 

Jeff Richey and wife golfing
Jeff Richey golfing with his wife in Bandon Dunes, OR.

A: I golf two to three times a week, and luckily it is an outdoor, pandemic-friendly activity. I find that being on the golf course helps me clear my thoughts and reenergizes me for the upcoming week.

I also love to cook, and this year I have been trying out new recipes and cooking methods.

Q: What do you love most about working at UW Medicine? 

A: I love the mission of UW Medicine and being a part of an organization that is leading the nation and the world in innovative medical care and healthcare delivery. We have some of the most incredible clinicians, researchers and leaders. It’s why I have spent my entire career here.

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