Nursing is an extremely varied profession, but nowhere is this more evident than in flight nursing. Providing front-line care and transporting patients from the country to our city’s biggest hospitals, flight nurses need extensive education and experience as they can be called on to provide the full gamut of nursing care, sometimes within the one shift!
Third year Bachelor of Nursing student Kate Drury jumped at the chance to experience clinical life in the air and elected to undertake a rural/remote placement with Air Ambulance for the final clinical placement of her degree.
Why did you choose a regional/remote clinical placement?
I had only ever experienced nurses working on the wards and wanted to learn more about how they practice outside of the traditional metropolitan clinical environment. My long-term career goal is to end up with the Royal Flying Doctors and I felt that doing a rural placement would give me a good insight into how nurses practice in remote areas.
What did your clinical placement involve?
For the most part it was providing inter-ICU care. Some of the patients were being cared for at hospitals which had intensive care units but needed services or procedures that could only be provided at a tertiary centre. There were also newborns to transfer who had been born at a small hospital but needed a NICU. Other patients we transferred home for end of life provisions or because their care was complete.
Clinical also involved seeing a lot of eastern Australia. A lot of the towns we went to I had never heard of. We picked up patients from Armidale, Coonabarabran, Tamworth, Wagga, Deniliquin, Merimbula, Condobolin, Dubbo, Melbourne, Kempsey, Williamtown, Brisbane, Coffs Harbour, Forbes, Port Macquarie and Griffith. That’s only about half the list!
What did you enjoy most?
The variety of patients! One day I looked after a ninety year old man who was being sent home for palliative care, the next day I was looking after a premature baby born at 27 weeks. I learnt about paediatric oncology, prepared for cardiac arrests, looked after my first ventilated patient, talked patients through flight anxiety, cared for a suicide survivor and helped stabilise spinal fractures. The patients were never alike in any way, and I found that a really interesting test of my nursing knowledge.
I have to say as well though, the flight nurses were outstanding educators and that definitely contributed to the fantastic learning experience I had. Even the pilots were interested in teaching so I got to learn a bit about flying planes as well.
What were the challenges?
Getting used to working a rotating roster! By the second week I was fine, but the first few days were a bit tough. Flight nursing is also very physically and mentally demanding - 1 hour flying is equivalent to 2 hours work on the ground! You need to be in great physical health.
Would you recommend a rural/remote placement to other students?
If you’re interested in doing something completely different and up for a bit of a challenge, then definitely!