It was while Brooke was working as a nurse in the remote Pilbara that she came into regular contact with the RFDS and was inspired to pursue a career as a flight nurse. Today, she is one of more than 50 RFDS WA flight nurses who provide critical support to rural and remote Western Australian women who are with child. Here is her story.
Q) What attracted you to a career with the Royal Flying Doctor Service? A. Early in my nursing career, I was practicing in a remote location in the inland Pilbara at a two-nurse hospital, with GP/locum support. In that time, the RFDS was a huge part of my day-to-day collaboration and in moving patients to the airstrip for retrieval. Relying on the RFDS for critical care support, prior to Emergency Telehealth Service (ETS) being established, set the foundation of my deep respect for the work they, and now I, do.
I found out that in order to be considered as a Flight Nurse for the RFDS by way of training and skills, registration to practice midwifery was an essential criteria, along with specific trauma and critical care courses. When I returned to Perth, I had my sights set on serving as a flight nurse with the RFDS and went about getting the necessary qualifications.
Since joining the RFDS, I have been based at Jandakot and can be tasked to respond to medical emergencies from anywhere across more than 2.5 million square kilometres of Western Australia.
Q) How empowering it is as an RFDS nurse to have midwifery skills under your belt too? A. It enables me to care for all patients within my full scope of practice. Whether it’s an early pregnancy loss or complication, or late-term or a post natal complication reason for transfer, I have the skill-set and confidence that I can provide the care required.
Q) What you do love about being a midwife with the RFDS? A. The midwifery I practice with the RFDS is unlike any other maternity care setting. There is a certain level of autonomy within my role that is difficult to achieve in a hospital setting. Being able to support rural and remote woman with competent and safe maternity care in what is often a scary, isolating and challenging time in their life is a privilege.
Q) What capabilities and capacities does the RFDS have to help pregnant women? A. RFDS midwives are trained in obstetric emergencies and neonatal resus with regular upskilling and re-certification. But we are also midwives trained in normal birth. Yes, the births we attend are likely pre-term, a complex-care scenario or in less than ideal locations, but ultimately when a baby decides it’s coming, it’s coming. Supporting normal birth physiology and the emotional and physical needs of the birthing woman is a fundamental aspect to the midwifery care we provide. This is then intertwined with our critical care training to ensure optimal safety for women and their babies during retrieval.
Q) How different is it being a midwife at a hospital in comparison to a flying ICU in the air? A. There is often you and a pilot and maybe a doctor. In the air, you are solely relying on your midwifery skill, encompassing all of the multidisciplinary aspects of maternity care with the added critical care skill-set and medical equipment should you need it. But you’re doing it all. It’s not for everyone, but I love it.
Q) Can you share with us a time where you had to help deliver a baby? A. Last August, I responded to a Priority 1 patient located in a country town north of Perth who was labouring pre-term with her second baby. I walked into the hospital and I knew by her vocalisations that baby was imminent. So I washed my hands, introduced myself and got close to the woman. In a low voice, I said: “My name is Brooke, I am a midwife and it sounds very much like we’re going to have a baby together.” Between contractions I encouraged her to move to a more comfortable position, take sips of water and we listen to the fetal heart rate which was super reassuring for her. I took the time to whisper to her: “You are safe, your baby is safe and we are all in this together.” Within 18 minutes, a beautiful, albeit tiny, baby girl was born. Baby arrived in good condition but we still needed to transport mum and bub to a regional centre for specialist care. A week later when I returned to retrieve another patient, she was able to provide me with an update on her baby’s progress and I was able to debrief properly with her about her experience.
Director of Aviation Safety, Pip Spence Are you up to date with the latest aviation safety developments? Do you want to refresh your knowledge or enhance your piloting skills?
We’re giving pilots a terrific way to invest in their ongoing development through a new national campaign backed by government agencies and aviation industry groups.
The campaign drives home the important message ‘your safety is in your hands’ and draws together a wealth of important pilot safety information on a new online hub.
Resources such as webinars, podcasts, videos and other safety-enhancing products are available in one easily accessible forum we believe will be an invaluable source for the piloting community.
In developing the campaign, we drew on research into pilot attitudes to safety information from CASA and other sources, as well as Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) occurrence data.
Our research showed that most pilots found that educational resources produced by CASA were helpful, but they were not always aware they existed or knew where to find them.
Safety topics are based on ATSB accident and incident data and we will focus on a new theme each quarter, starting last month with non-controlled aerodromes.
This is a significant and always relevant subject that emphasises the importance of radio calls, planning and situational awareness.
You can find useful tips from experts in informative videos demonstrating best practices in these and other key areas.
The campaign will run through to July next year and topics in future quarters will focus on forecasting and navigating weather, flight planning and using controlled aerodromes.
Our thanks go to Airservices Australia and the Bureau of Meteorology for contributing information and resources on operating at controlled aerodromes and forecasting and navigating weather.
Additional help came from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority and industry bodies such as Recreational Aviation Australia and the Australian Helicopter Industry Association.
The associations will be helping to get the message out to members and we are particularly keen to see rotary wing pilots use these resources after a number of accidents this year.
We are providing resources to help the associations and local flying schools encourage involvement, particularly from recreational and private pilot licence holders.
This pilot group believes it is extremely important to keep up to date with developments in aviation safety and has positive views about aviation standards.
We want to reinforce the concept that safety is in their hands, as well as the importance of thinking ahead and maintaining their skills.
However, the importance of the campaign’s message cannot be underestimated for those who are more qualified.
While CASA provides the framework for maintaining Australia’s safety, it is also a matter of individual responsibility.
We can all get blasé about any function we perform over a lengthy period but in aviation nonchalance can be fatal.
Flight Safety Australia has published many sad stories where the worst has happened as well as numerous articles where veteran pilots urge colleagues to refresh and update their knowledge throughout their careers.
Pilots owe it to themselves to check out these resources and I hope as many as possible do so.
All the best,
Multi-engine helicopter rating now available
Helicopter pilots now have access to a class-like system for most single-pilot multi-engine helicopters.
This follows feedback from industry that the current approach of requiring a type rating for each multi-engine helicopter could be simplified.
We are moving our Medical Records System (MRS) to sit within the myCASA portal next month to make more of our online services accessible from the one place.
This means from the end of October, you won’t need a separate username and password to log in to MRS from casa.gov.au to apply for or renew your medical certificates – you will be able to do this by logging into myCASA.
CASA welcomes new safety panel membersWe’re pleased to welcome 2 new members to our Aviation Safety Advisory Panel.
Dr Tarryn Kille joined the Panel for its June meeting this year, and Shannon O’Hara is set to attend her first meeting in October. Read more
ADS-B windfallHalf off the price of anything is always welcome news but when it also enhances safety, it should be a lay down misere.
Eligible operators can now get an Australian government grant that covers up to 50 percent of the cost of purchasing and installing safety-enhancing Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADS-B) equipment. The grant is capped at $5000. Read more
Review of flight trainingWe’re reviewing your responses to a General Aviation Workplan initiative that will see us expand the privileges of some flight instructors.
An advanced copy of the instrument allowing flight instructors with a grade 1 training endorsement to train, assess and grant a range of endorsements for certain activities was released for comment in August. Read more
SMS milestones: one down, more to goPart 119 air transport and Part 138 operators conducting more complex aerial work operations should now be working toward the next safety management system (SMS) milestone in early December.
Operators in these categories will need to provide an SMS implementation plan by 2 December with the idea of providing full documentation by the June 2024 and being ready to start by December that year. Read more
Progress on Mallacoota AerodromeStaff from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority and East Gippsland Shire Council have been working hard to re-introduce instrument flight procedures at Mallacoota Airport.
Meetings over the past two weeks have established a clear plan to transition the airport to certification and to reintroduce the Terminal Instrument Flight Procedures. Read more
Have Your Say on Avalon airspaceGet your submission in by 23 September to have you say on changes to airspace near Victoria’s Avalon Airport.
We’re proposing to remove Class E airspace at Avalon and replace it with Class D airspace. Read more
Register for our free September aviation safety seminars.We want you to come and join us as our AvSafety Advisors fly into your community to deliver our latest safety seminars.
These friendly and supportive in-person seminars will enhance the safety skills of any aviation professional, no matter what level of technical knowledge, experience or flying time. Read more
Share your close call Have you had a close call?
A close call is an experience you’ll never forget and often you’ve learnt a valuable lesson. Why not share your close call so others can learn from it too? Read more
A new national safety education campaign backed by major aviation groups and aimed at encouraging pilots to increase their skills and knowledge launches today.
The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) is working closely with the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), Airservices Australia, Bureau of Meteorology (BOM), and industry bodies to enhance aviation safety through the ‘Your safety is in your hands’ campaign.
The new campaign encourages pilots to keep up to date with aviation safety developments, refresh their knowledge, invest in their ongoing development and, most importantly, stay safe.
CASA Chief Executive Officer and Director of Aviation Safety, Pip Spence, says the campaign was developed with input from pilots and using ATSB occurrence data.
“With the help from the ATSB, we’ve been able to build our campaign and safety topics based on accident and incident data. Each quarter we will focus on a new safety topic with information and online resources available through the new CASA pilot safety hub,” Ms Spence said.
The CASA pilot safety hub provides a range of safety resources and useful information including webinars, podcasts, videos and products to enhance pilot safety.
“Airservices Australia and the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) have also contributed to our campaign by providing information and resources on operating at controlled aerodromes and navigating weather and forecasting,” Ms Spence said.
“Aimed at the Australian pilot community, we’ve been working on a range of resources for local flying schools and industry associations to encourage their students and members to get involved.”
As part of the national safety education campaign, CASA is also working alongside industry associations including Recreational Aviation Australia (RAAus) and the Australian Helicopter Industry Association (AHIA) to help spread these important safety messages.
RAAus Chief Executive Officer, Matt Bouttell, says providing the piloting community a resource hub for topics that affect all pilots when flying is invaluable.
“Having safety information and useful resources on-hand in the one place is an asset to our members and the wider piloting community,” he said.
AHIA Chief Executive, Paul Tyrell, said that they supported the campaign and would be looking at how to encourage their members to engage and think about aviation safety.
“Helicopter pilots face similar risks to traditional fixed wing pilots, and we welcome any activity or initiative to encourage pilots no matter what their aircraft type to think about safety.”
For more information about the ‘Your safety is in your hands’ campaign visit the CASA pilot safety hub – casa.gov.au/pilots.
A five-year stint in the Pilbara region of Western Australia during her early working life gave Alice* an understanding for the work of the Flying Doctor and motivated her to make a gift in her Will for the South Eastern Section.
Alice said she wanted to ensure the Flying Doctor would be able to assist people in isolated communities into the future.
“I have a better appreciation than most of what isolation is like when I lived and worked in the Pilbara region. I lived in a town (Tom Price) that was built for employees of the mine there,” Alice said.
“The town was built by the mining company and had everything including a supermarket, bank, post office, school and hospital, but once you set foot out of town, there was nothing.
“It was such a beautiful sight, the red dirt against a bright blue sky and the ghost gums, but it was such an isolated place. The nearest town was Wittenoom, more than 100 kilometres away, and it was several hours to Dampier.
“If you went anywhere you had to tell people where you were going otherwise they wouldn’t know to look out for you if you didn’t come back.”
While technology had made the world smaller and kept people in touch, there was no overcoming the tyranny of distance in outback Australia, Alice said, and that was what made the Flying Doctor so important.
“I don’t think a lot of people who live in cities or even large regional towns could understand what the isolation is like. I got a taste of it, and all I could think was if I got into trouble when I was out there I would hope there was someone like the Flying Doctor who was able to help,” Alice said.
We are so grateful to our generous supporters like Alice, who want to ensure that no Australian is left without access to quality healthcare regardless of their location.
If you are interested in leaving a gift in your Will to the Royal Flying Doctor Service (South Eastern Section), we would love an opportunity to speak with you confidentially and to answer any questions you may have.
The future of Tenterfield Airport in New South Wales is at risk with news that the Tenterfield Shire Council is seeking a sell off of the community airport asset, with non-aviation property developers said to be circling.
Council CEO Daryl Buckingham, who has been in the job for less than 12 months, is said to have given clear instructions to the Council’s Development Manager Bruce Mills to scope out all saleable assets with the community airport at the top of the list.
Located 6km north west of the township of Tenterfield, the community airport was purchased by Council in 1967 and has been an invaluable base of operations for local aerial agriculture, aerial firefighting and emergency services. The airfield is also used for local business and recreational private aviation. The grass runway is approx 1300m in length.“Tenterfield is just another example in a growing list of airport sites that are facing the the real threat of sell-off, in response to spiraling local council debts nationwide – this is a crisis in the making, ” Benjamin Morgan, AOPA Australia CEO. “Such outcomes nationwide are serving to further displace aviation through the introduction of uncontrolled commercial fees and charges, undermining the viability of aviation services throughout regional Australia, “When privatised owners realise there is little money to be made from charging user fees, the very next thing they do is start redeveloping the sites for non-aviation use, “AOPA Australia is reaching out to the Councillors and Management of the Tenterfield Shire Council seeking an opportunity to discuss this important situation, “Our association is encouraging the Council to reject any proposal to sell-off this invaluable community asset, highlighting the important and ongoing contribution the airfield makes to the safety, security and amenity of the local ratepayers and region,” he said.
Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) Victoria and NCN Health are pleased to announce a new partnership to bring the Flying Doctor Community Transport service to the community of Numurkah and surrounds.
Led by a local Program Coordinator and a team of highly trained volunteer drivers, Flying Doctor Community Transport is a free service offering eligible community members transportation to health appointments. The Flying Doctor has been successfully operating this service in Heathcote since 2018, and in Rochester since 2021.
This free service is scheduled to commence soon in the community and is supported by Western Victoria Primary Health Network, Murray Primary Health Network and Gippsland Primary Health Network under the Australian Government’s Primary Health Networks Program.
RFDS Victoria is working to break down barriers to accessing health care, wellbeing support and social connection across the state and is dedicated to assisting all Victorians to receive the care they need.
To find out more about Flying Doctor Community Transport and this new partnership with NCN Health, please call 1300 887 678 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. More information will be shared as the service commences over the next few months.
The main role of a training and checking system is to keep skills up to date for:
crew members (flight crew, cabin crew, air crew, medical transport specialists, task specialists)
other staff safety-critical to operations.
What to consider
If you are developing a training and checking system for the first time, you should consider the following:
The earlier you start thinking about how to fit the system into your organisation, the easier it will be to implement.
Most of your employees are already required to undergo training and checking. Having a system brings these processes together to achieve a specific purpose.
The frequency of training and checking may be changing but in some instances you can use existing checks.
For example, the frequency of checks for some operators offering flights using visual flight rules (VFR) have changed. Under the old rules, a VFR charter operator only needed to ensure that pilots did a CASR Part 61 flight review every 2 years. Under the new Part 135 of CASR, VFR pilots will need to be checked every 12 months.