MSUM nursing professor provides life-saving aid during an emergency flight landing

Jill Holmstrom, professor and incoming co-chair of the MSUM School of Nursing and Healthcare Leadership, recently used her nursing skills outside of the classroom – during an emergency on a flight from Florida to North Dakota.

After her grandfather went into a nursing home, Jill knew she wanted to become a nurse. Shortly after, she became a CNA and was able to work and take care of her grandfather in assisted living. “That's how I fell in love with nursing. I decided to get my degree and it’s been an amazing thing,” she says.

Jill began her nursing career as a licensed practicing nurse (LPN). While working in that capacity, she earned her master's and doctorate degrees at the University of Phoenix. Jill was then hired as a lab assistant to support students. She found a love for instructing and began teaching full-time. While teaching, Jill continued working in nursing at Essentia Health for several years. Her dual role as a professional nurse and educator gave her a unique expertise while teaching.

Last September, Jill's expertise was put into play when what was meant to be a plane ride home from Florida with her granddaughter, quickly turned into an emergency landing.

An announcement was voiced over the plane’s speaker system, asking if there was a medical provider on board. Trusting the flight attendant and passengers around her, she left her one-and-a-half-year-old granddaughter in first class and sprang into action in the back of the plane.

Assessing the individual and moving them into the aisle, Jill recognized the severity of the situation. Although there was medical equipment on board, what was needed for the situation wasn’t.

“When I got to the individual, I immediately knew what was going on. I alerted a flight attendant that the plane needed to land right away,” she says.

Passengers around Jill made sure to assist in any way they could while the pilot pushed for landing clearance at an airport in Atlanta. Jill was able to assist the paramedics with the individual before the flight resumed.

"The whole event restored a bit of my faith in humanity. Everyone was helping; one passenger offered to take my granddaughter and an elderly woman grabbed my arm and said 'I can't help, but I'm praying.' They were amazing," she says.

Jill was also, by pure chance, the first person at the scene of a car accident several years ago. She was the only medically trained personnel tending to five victims, until the ambulance arrived.


These experiences remind Jill of how nurses, and medical providers, are never off-duty. As a professor, Jill incorporates storytelling and real-life experiences into the curriculum for her students. MSUM trains their nursing students as generalists. This opens them up to the opportunity of switching departments as well as being able to apply general knowledge and medical assistance to any person.

MSUM’s nursing program stresses the importance of critical thinking and offers top-level equipment and medical supplies to prepare students for planned and unexpected situations.

“Nursing is not a job, it’s a calling. We have a love for helping people, and are always ready to help,” Jill says.


MSUM offers an on campus/hybrid Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), an online Registered Nurse (RN) to BSN nursing degree and online graduate nursing degrees.

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