The majority of doctors will work on board RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopters and Air Ambulance jets across Queensland; while others will be assigned to other aeromedical services.
To become a critical care doctor with the organization, the new recruits had to learn specific pre-hospital and retrieval clinical skills and put them into practice at Simulation Training; learn helicopter winching operation techniques; and complete Helicopter Underwater Escape Training (HUET) training.
“During HUET, there are a number of sequences they undertake, including being inverted and blacked out or blindfolded, to simulate that they may not be able to see when conducting the egress,” said LifeFlight Training Academy Instructor Shaun Gillott.
“We also conduct sequences where their exit may not work, and they have to go and use a secondary exit, whether it be a door or an emergency exit window. It’s very important that we give the new doctors the opportunity to practice the skills that they would need if they were ever faced with the real situation,” he added.
“Winch training becomes one of the biggest and most important skills the new doctors will learn,” said RACQ LifeFlight Rescue Chief Aircrew Officer Simon Gray. “At the end of the day, they’re all doctors who can treat people whenever they come across them. This winch training is about how do we deliver those doctors to people who need them. We can put someone down 250 feet, through the trees, to someone who’s had a motorbike accident, or fallen off the side of a cliff. It’s one of the ways we deliver medical experts to where they need to be.”
Skills are put into practice during training
During training week, new critical care doctor registrars put their pre-hospital care and retrieval skills to the test through a range of high-pressure scenarios, undertaken at the Queensland Combined Emergency Services Academy at Whyte Island, Brisbane.
The scenarios are designed to mimic worst-case incidents such as a multi-vehicle crash, a house party with an overdose, as well as a maritime disaster.
Registrars also had the opportunity to participate in training exercises using augmented reality headsets (AR) for the first time, through a collaboration with University of Queensland PHD student Paul Schlosser.
“The thing that is always difficult with a job like this is the variability. They could get a job like this, that is the worst thing we could create at Whyte Island, on their first shift, but you don’t necessarily do it every day,” said LifeFlight Director of Education Dr Andrew Donohue.
RACQ LifeFlight Rescue recruits from around the world
The latest batch of critical care doctor recruits have varied medical backgrounds and countries of origin.
One new recruit, Dr Tom Wedgewood, a registrar who specialized in anaesthetics, left his former life in London in search of a faster-paced job flying aeromedical retrieval missions from Brisbane.
“Back home, I’m used to dealing with one patient at a time, in a nice operating theatre or intensive care unit, whereas here I’ll be out in a much less predictable, much more varied environment. It’s going to be a challenge but that’s why I’m here, and it’s quite exciting to be here now at last,” he said.
Another pair of recruits, Dr Elin Hammarlund and Dr Johan Nord, have travelled from Sweden to join the Townsville base in Northern Queensland.
“It’s always been a dream of mine, since I was small, I’ve always wanted to be a helicopter doctor,” said Hammarlund. “In Sweden, I had the opportunity to tag along with a Swedish helicopter. It was a really great experience, and it was actually the main thing that made me want to come on with LifeFlight as well.”
The couple have been able to lean on each other for support throughout Doctor Training Week. “It was fun to have some company, especially through training week. It’s quite hectic and a lot of information to process, so it’s very nice to have someone to talk to afterwards,” said Dr Nord.