15-Feb-2022 Source: RACQ LifeFlight Rescue
21 new RACQ LifeFlight Rescue Critical Care doctors have joined the ranks across Queensland, but one of the retrieval registrars had already treated a patient in the air, before she even started her official aeromedical training.
Dr Karin Dautzenberg was called in to help on the plane ride over to Australia from the Netherlands, when a passenger collapsed.
“The flight attendant looked afraid and I said ‘it’s ok, I’m a doctor’,” said Dr Dautzenberg.
“After 2 or 3 minutes he woke up and was feeling fine, so thankfully there was no need to land the plane!”
Helping people was Dr Dautzenberg’s reason for becoming a doctor, so she specialised in anesthetics, but it’s always been her dream to work on helicopters.
“I still remember calling my mum and saying this is the job I want to be doing for the rest of my life.”
The new recruits have varied medical backgrounds; some have travelled from overseas to join Queensland’s iconic aeromedical and rescue service, while others have been practicing medicine in Australia and witnessed LifeFlight’s work first hand.
All share a common goal of wanting to bring high quality medical response to communities in remote and regional areas.
Before taking to the skies, the new doctors completed LifeFlight’s world-renowned aeromedical training program, including Helicopter Underwater Escape Training (HUET) and winching.
The RACQ LifeFlight Critical Care doctors are required to learn a double winch, where they’re paired with a paramedic, and a stretcher winch, where they escort a patient into the aircraft.
“It is probably the most dangerous thing that we do,” said RACQ LifeFlight Chief Aircrew Officer Simon Gray.
“They have to put their trust in a steel cable and someone sitting in a helicopter that could be 250 feet above them to make sure they’re safe going down to a patient.
“The chances are one of these doctors could turn up at their base and do one on their very first day, or they may not do one at all, but we have to be prepared and we have to be able to go out and do this at a moment’s notice.”
In the unlikely event of a helicopter crashing into water, the doctors are now prepared thanks to underwater escape training.
“We take them through several scenarios including blindfolded sequences while they’re upside down, and removing different types of restraints,” said LifeFlight Training Academy Instructor Shaun Gillott.
“We’re running a professional organisation and we’re always making sure that we can provide the best training to our staff as well as the best service to the community within Queensland.
“LifeFlight gives the doctors the skills to keep themselves and the passengers safe.”
The RACQ LifeFlight Critical Care doctors also learnt specific pre-hospital and retrieval clinical skills and put them into practice in high-pressure scenarios at the Queensland Combined Emergency Services Academy at Whyte Island, in Brisbane.
The scenarios are designed to mimic the worst-case incidents they may be confronted with in real life, such as a multi-vehicle crash, a house party with a drug overdose, and even a boating disaster.
The doctors will be deployed to RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopter and Air Ambulance jet bases in Queensland; some will be assigned to other aeromedical services.
The majority of their work is performed on behalf of Queensland Health, under a ten-year service agreement.