Graphic: Dr Shannon Townsend works with the RFDS South Eastern Section as a retrieval registrar

All the reasons why I love working as an RFDS retrieval registrar

Date published

14 Jul 2017

Dr Shannon Townsend is an emergency trainee in her fifth year of postgraduate study. She works for the Royal Flying Doctor Service South Eastern (RFDS SE) Section. This is her story.

I always knew I wanted to work for the RFDS, but wasn't sure if I was ready.

When I applied for the Retrieval Registrar position I had completed six month terms in Emergency, Paediatrics, Anaesthetics and Intensive Care. But I wondered if I was capable of using these skills in remote environments as a sole clinician – which is often the case in retrieval medicine.

I am so glad I decided to have a go.

Firstly, the training opportunities have been amazing. In our first week we travelled to Sydney for a week of training with the helicopter retrieval service. This was an amazing week of learning and simulation with Australia's leaders in retrieval medicine. I was constantly challenged, inspired and had an awesome time!

When we returned to Dubbo we did a further week of induction in our home environment. This involved a simulation where we went to a paddock in the back of a ute to retrieve a motorbike accident victim.

Shannon training

A few months later I retrieved a young man who was combative and had a head injury from a motorbike accident. No interventions had been performed prior to our arrival. During this job I successfully sedated, anaesthetised and intubated this patient, then inserted lines and transported him safely to Sydney.

It was nerve-wracking but I was well supported throughout by phone with my senior medical officer. We also discussed my plans prior to the retrieval and troubleshot concerns. My boss had camera access to the hospital, which meant he could jump online and have a look if I had any concerns.

We are fortunate to have a 24/7 RFDS helpline. At times this level of support exceeds what is available in hospitals.

The retrieval made me realise what I am truly capable of. Every retrieval is different and poses new challenges and learning opportunities. After each retrieval I can sit down with my boss and discuss areas of improvement, I am always learning and becoming a better clinician.

More training take place

The education is ongoing. On weekdays when we are not flying there is daily simulation and teaching happening at the base. We have regular review meetings and clinical governance days to learn from each other's experiences. My term with RFDS is also accredited with The Australasian College of Emergency Medicine, so it counts towards my training time.

I have been well supported by the RFDS to take study leave to work on a masters degree, as well as exam leave. We are also funded to attend a course of our choosing.

We are encouraged to take our annual leave and work/life balance is supported. I have not had any troubles in requesting days off or having annual leave approved.

The lifestyle support is beyond fantastic! Housing is included in our contract, so I was able to move straight into a furnished house in a nice area without the hassle of searching. I just had to show up!

Being a retrieval registrar with the RFDS is a great job – that best I've had. I would recommend it to any emergency trainee with an interest in retrieval medicine.

Dr Shannon Townsend in front of an RFDS plane