New doctors take to the sky
THEY were held upside down under water in a cage and then thrown out of a hovering helicopter - now these three critical care doctors have joined the Sunshine Coast-based RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopter team.
Recruits from the most highly-skilled doctors around the world and within Australia are hand-picked to undergo rigorous training to qualify as LifeFlight medical retrieval registrars.
The doctors are put through a confronting scenario during helicopter underwater escape training at a training academy in Brisbane. They are put through a mock helicopter crash and must get themselves to safety.
"It gives them the necessary skills to be able to respond appropriately in an emergency situation if one does arise. It can be challenging for some,” training officer Shaun Gillott said.
"This time round everybody got through the training and embraced the requirements and ended up passing successfully.”
Two of the three Coast doctors are Swedish graduates.
Dr Oskar Larsson, a consultant in emergency medicine and ex-army medic, chose the Coast after road tripping through Queensland coastal areas.
"Many reasons I must tell you but the main reason is I have a really big personal interest in critical care, pre-hospital work ... and you have loads of sun and good surfing,” he said.
He said he was looking forward to working with a small team and facing the challenges of being away from his familiar hospital environment.
"Working in this gear in December in Australia is going to be excruciating at times so that will be a quest of its own but also working in mountains and roadside where logistics and the environment will really put you to the test,” he said.
In the 2017-2018 financial year, the LifeFlight Rescue helicopters completed 1819 community-based missions throughout Queensland. A total of 450 of those were by the Sunshine Coast aeromedical crew, costing $5.6 million - at no cost to patients.
The team never knows what they could be responding to next - a seriously ill patient needing transfer, a car accident or a patient who must be winched to safety from a remote location.
Winch training, to get the doctor from a hovering helicopter to the patient and then bring them up, is a vital part of being a LifeFlight critical care doctor.
"Part of the initial training for the new LifeFlight doctors is to get them a little bit more familiar, a little bit more comfortable with that environment, operating away from the hospital,” Mr Gillott said.
"They won't have all the resources at hand at times and they need to adapt a little bit more to the challenges that are presented to them. This training is getting them ready for those situations.”
UK graduate Dr Emma Butterfield was taking time out of her emergency medicine training to be Lifeflight's roaming registrar. She will work at aeromedical helicopter bases throughout Queensland, including LifeFlight Sunshine Coast.
"I'm going to be taking the hospital to the patient. Taking all the equipment that we have in the hospital on a helicopter to wherever the patient needs us,” she said.
Dr Butterfield said she had a big interest in humanitarian medicine, which led her to complete long-term placements overseas.
"I've worked in Ecuador, worked on a small rescue boat in the central Mediterranean with a Spanish NGO picking up migrants,” she said.
"Most recently I worked in Iraq for a couple of weeks during the offensive against Isis doing humanitarian and trauma care.
"I love my job.”