International Women's Day: Flight Nurse Fleur

Fleur Brown’s first exposure to the Royal Flying Doctor Service was probably something a lot of kids of the outback experienced.

Fleur Brown's first exposure to the Royal Flying Doctor Service was probably something a lot of kids of the outback experienced. Fleur grew up on a cattle station 125 kilometres south of Mount Isa.

Until she went to boarding school at the age of 12, Fleur was taught by her mother through the School of the Air. It was during these lessons that the Royal Flying Doctor Service literally disrupted her life, interrupting her lessons with radio calls as they shared the same HF radio frequency as the School of the Air.

Years later, it was with those RFDS calls across the airwaves still in her mind that Fleur chose a career in nursing.

Now in 2017, with her deep passion for rural critical care, Fleur is enjoying a seven year career with the RFDS, a career which still captivates her as she travels to remote and regional parts of Queensland.

"It's surreal. Inside the aircraft you have someone extremely sick on a tiny stretcher and outside the window you are flying high above the clouds, it's like another world."

While the romance of the Flying Doctor is not lost on Fleur, it is the strong sense of team work that makes the work just as rewarding, she says.

The idea of often flying into the unknown is made easier thanks to the support of a truly professional team by her side, with each member contributing to the overall clinical perspective. The doctor, nurse and pilot make decisions together based on the context and environment, and sometimes the weather, and that's a unique situation, Fleur says.

"We do it well because we have respect for each other. It is this trust in each other which makes the team function effectively."

Fleur agrees there are certain characteristics you need as a flight nurse. Two which sit at the top of her list are common sense and a sense of humour in order to deal with the unexpected.

The flexibility to adapt to a fast and rapidly changing environment is also a characteristic Fleur says she will never take for granted.

"You need to know your stuff; know your equipment and procedures just in case, because you never know when you will need to respond without warning," she says. "If you're in the middle of a paddock with the doctor and a very sick patient you don't have time to faff around. Every second counts.

"Common sense means knowing what to prioritise quickly. You have to make decisions based on the context and what is available, and it helps if you know the bush, it gives you a kind of insider knowledge, especially about how to relate to the patients."

The striking thing about people in the outback, according to Fleur, is their gratitude and appreciation for the help RFDS offers. They have a loyalty and emotional connection to the Flying Doctor.

Offering advice to anyone aspiring to become a flight nurse just like her, Fleur suggests learning to expect the unexpected, to develop initiative and responsibility, and to grow a particular sense of humour.

"Anything can happen and you need to roll with it and work as a team. You need to be able to make decisions quickly," she says. "If you are a person who likes challenges and diversity, this is the most rewarding job you can tackle."