RACQ LifeFlight Rescue’s Chief Aircrew Officer Simon Gray said winching is a crucial component of the doctors’ training. “This is one of the most important parts of their training with us, as this means we can take advanced medical care to almost anywhere that’s needed,” Gray said. Through a specially designed training program, which includes theory, static exercises and live winches, the doctors progressively learnt how to perform winches with a paramedic, with a patient, with a stretcher and on their own. “So, if they have a patient who requires medical care while they’re winching up, they can be on that stretcher and provide that assistance if needed,” Gray added. The winching exercise enabled the crew to further refine their skills and continue their training regime, while allowing the fleet of RACQ LifeFlight Rescue community helicopters to remain online and available for life-saving missions.
“Training’s been really good in terms of preparing us for what difficulties we may face on the ground and also some of the different aspects of pre-hospital medicine – the fact that you’re going to have less resources, less people around you to help and being mindful about these challenges and preparing for them, so when you’re there, you’re able to perform,” said Cairns-based RACQ LifeFlight Rescue Critical Care Doctor Raed Khuffash.
HUET training essential for helicopter safety
Using the LifeFlight Training Academy’s equipment – including life-like mannequins and a Medical Simulator, which is fitted out as the cabin of an AW139 helicopter – the recruits practice a range of possible scenarios.
The doctors also tackle Helicopter Underwater Escape Training (HUET), pre-hospital care clinical training and a series of high-pressure mock scenarios, to prepare them for situations they may face on the job. “The training package is probably on par with some of the world’s leading pre-hospital retrieval courses,” new recruit Dr Faraaz de Belder said.
The HUET and Sea Survival Training, run by the LifeFlight Training Academy’s own team of skilled instructors, is carried out over two days, to ensure each trainee is fully prepared before being ‘dunked’ in a mock water emergency.
“We run through one full day of theory training, before we put them into the pool environment, from there we begin with emergency breathing systems, we’ll work through that system on a shallow water platform, before we put them into the real dunker,” explained LifeFlight Training Academy Sea Survival Instructor Jenevieve Peacock.
The HUET experience can initially be daunting for doctors, but they quickly gain confidence, under careful guidance, with back-up from safety divers. “It’s pretty scary when you first go in there but the instructors are really on the ball and taught us really well, being able to run through dry drills before being dunked also really helped,” Dr de Belder commented.
Special missions operators can use a variety of methods to train for hoist rescues, including in academies such as LifeFlight’s, or virtual, augmented or mixed reality, and real-life helicopters, although the cost of the latter is, for many, prohibitive. AirMed&Rescue’s latest hoist training article explored the options available to operators.