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LifeSave Crew Profile: Kris Knerr and Travis White-Velez

May 22, 2020

This EMS week, we want to highlight a pair of outstanding LifeSave crew members who have quickly proven themselves to be valuable assets, great caregivers, and even better people. Meet LifeSave Flight Nurse, Kris Knerr and Flight Paramedic, Travis White-Velez.

What makes Travis and Kris unique is not only the tremendous job they do in caring for their patients while being a friendly face and resource to hospitals and EMS agencies, but their background and friendship that brought them as a package deal from the east coast to LifeSave.

Kris Knerr (left) and Travis White-Velez (right) pictured with their friends from Yale New Haven Health System at a regular breakfast get together.

Both from Connecticut, Kris and Travis originally met working at Yale New Haven Hospital. At the time, Travis was working EMS and Kris was a nurse at Yale New Haven, so they got to know each other through the ER and became part of a group of friends from the hospital. They quickly discovered they both wanted to fly critical care and made the goal of being able to fly together.

“We both loved the critical care aspect of our jobs but really wanted to fly because that is considered the pinnacle of a nursing or medic career, and back east flying isn’t really a thing,” Travis explained.

Kris agreed and added, “I had always wanted to do pararescue in the Air Force, but that didn’t work out, so I applied to nursing school to make my parents happy and fell in love with it. Then, I learned that there was actually still a way I could fly on the civilian side with med evac services.”

Kris and Travis started training for CFRN (Certified Flight Nurse Specialization) and FPC (Certified Flight Paramedic) exams and began researching and applying to flight services. LifeSave ended up offering the opportunity for them to fly together, and Personnel Manager, Kristin Leonard ultimately helped guide their decision.

“I spoke to Kristin about the opportunity LifeSave had for me and the potential for Kris to join, and honestly, she was phenomenal to work with. That really stood out in choosing LifeSave among the other offers we had,” said Travis.

When asked about that conversation, Kristin recalled, “From the first interview with each of them, their dedication to patient care and overwhelming excitement at the possibility of combining those skills with the flight aspect was evident. They were so grateful for the opportunity to achieve that dream, and to be able to work together. We are truly blessed to have Kris and Travis on our team — they are such a joy to work with!”

After making their final arrangements with Kristin, Kris and Travis packed up their lives in Connecticut and moved to Garden City, where they now work between LifeSave’s Garden City and Liberal bases. Lovingly referred to as “The New York Boys” by fellow crew members, Travis and Kris agree that while it has been an adjustment living in a more rural area, it has been a positive move because their coworkers, the Garden City community, and the hospitals and EMS services they have been able to work with are some of the nicest people they have ever met.

Travis White-Velez (left) and Kris Knerr (right) pictured with judges during St. Catherine Hospital’s Annual Soup Luncheon.

“I am really enjoying the family environment and accepting atmosphere here,” Kris commented regarding his experience settling in over the last year at LifeSave.

Working frequently with St. Catherine Hospital in patient transport, Travis says he feels particularly fortunate to be able to interact with the staff. “The people at St. Cat’s are some of the most welcoming and caring individuals that I’ve had the pleasure of working with. They genuinely care about the health and well-being of the community, and not just because it’s their job.”

Since joining the team, Travis and Kris have become a well-known pair at LifeSave as well as in the Kansas hospital and EMS community. Their skills, professionalism, and teamwork are often recognized by outside agencies.

The Northwest Kansas EMS Director mentioned a recent transport where they responded saying, “Travis and Kris were attentive, interactive to the staff and had a sense of urgency without rushing. The most praise I can personally offer is an efficient approach to a quick turn on the transport. My staff commented also that they appreciated their interaction with the flight crew and felt a valuable part of the transport process.”

Travis White-Velez (left) and Kris Knerr (right) pictured with Flight Nurse, Pam Simmons during orientation.

That sentiment was echoed by Medicine Lodge Hospital. “I was very impressed with the crew (Kris and Travis) that came in to take over care of my patient recently,” said Nurse Practitioner, Megan Nelson.

Travis and Kris are also seen by their fellow LifeSavers as exceptional crewmates who are always mission ready, committed to providing the best care, and fun to be around.

At the base level, Blake Prosser, LifeSave Chief Pilot often gets to fly with the duo in Liberal and says, “There’s seriously never a dull moment with those two. Kris and Travis always bring their ‘A’ game! They are professional, skilled, and fit right in with our crew. Great guys to work with.”

Though Flight Nurse Pam Simmons does not have the pleasure of working shifts with Kris and Travis, she does say she “loves to share the Kansas life with her Connecticut boys!”

Thank you, Travis and Kris, for embracing what it means to be a LifeSaver. Your commitment and enthusiasm in fulfilling our mission of patient care make you true LifeSave Ambassadors and we are excited to see how you continue to make an impact in the communities we serve.