After working for more than 26 years of in hospitals, midwife Debby Jones needed a change.
Flicking through a copy of Nursing Careers Allied Health magazine one morning, Debby found exactly what she was after. A job vacancy advertisement for a flight nurse with New South Wales Air Ambulance set Debby on an exciting and unexpected new career path.
As 1 of just 32 flight nurses in NSW, Debby is responsible for transporting regional and rural patients by air to tertiary and metropolitan centres.
In 2011, Air Ambulance carried over 5,000 patients, flew nearly 2,500 missions for 6500 hours from the Darling River to Lord Howe Island, and from Melbourne to Brisbane.
As a registered midwife, Debby loves the variety of her job which includes looking after mothers antenatally, during labour and post partum.
“The ideal is not to have a delivery and we try to make it work that way but it doesn’t always happen,” says Debby.
Earlier in the year, Debby helped deliver a baby in the carpark of a rural airport, as they were unable to reach the nearest hospital in time.
“The weather was shocking and she was having contractions every minute. We got her off the plane and into an ambulance but she was fully dilated,” Debby said.
Notable memories on her list of jobs include delivering a breech baby while 10,000 feet in the air between Dubbo and Walgett, and the delivery of a 27-week-old baby in a rural hospital. Having no midwifery equipment at the rural hospital, Debby used an oven bag, foil, bed lamps, bunny rugs and a hair dryer to keep the premature baby warm until specialised neo-natal transport arrived.
Flight nurses are registered nurses and midwives with experience in critical care specialities such as coronary, emergency or intensive care.
Flight nurses are trained in emergency deliveries, says Debby and can handle whatever the challenging role throws at them.
“It can be a tricky job and you can have nasty things happen but if things do go wrong we’re qualified and trained for those things,” Debby said.
The medical equipment onboard is identical to that found in your average hospital, just made to a smaller scale so as to be suitable for air travel.
With just a pilot to accompany them, flight nurses are solely responsible for the care of the patients they transport, an aspect of the job Debby finds most rewarding.
“The time that I’m with them, they almost get everything but their fingernails done for them,” Debby said.
“I love the job, I get more time with the patients and I go home satisfied and that is all because of the care I am able to give.”