Behind the scenes of an RFDS outback mission

Behind the scenes of an RFDS outback mission

Date published

23 Nov 2023

Follow the Flying Doctor on an outback mission to get young patient Tyler to safety and care.

Emergency tasking

1. Emergency tasking

The RFDS Alice Springs Base is alerted of an accident at a cattle station. The local remote clinic provides a run-down – young station worker Tyler has crushed his arm in an accident and it’s time-critical.

Patient preparation

2. Patient preparation

On-duty Flight Nurse Sophie Stibbard analyses the patient notes using the RFDS Electronic Health Record (EHR)* while packing the medication and equipment. Sophie needs to consider all possible scenarios when packing for the task.

*A web-based application that serves as a ‘digital medical bag’ for all patients.
Aircraft check

3. Aircraft check

Pilot Duke Dingley conducts an aircraft check, from nose to tail – a standard safety protocol prior to the first shift of the day for any RFDS aircraft.

Loading aircraft

4. Loading aircraft

Sophie and Duke load the aircraft ready for takeoff no more than 45 minutes after receiving the initial call.

In-flight planning

5. In-flight planning

En route to the patient, Sophie uses the EHR to collect and gather further information as it is made available by the clinic and discusses an on-ground action plan with Duke.

Patient handover

6. Patient handover (1)

Tyler is driven 10 minutes from the remote clinic to the airstrip where he is placed under the care of the RFDS. On the ground, Sophie assesses Tyler’s arm injury, focusing on circulation to his hand, while also conducting neurovascular observations*. Due to the nature of Tyler’s injury, time is of the essence, so the RFDS team transfers onto the aircraft as quickly as possible.

*The components of the neurovascular assessment include pulses, capillary refill, skin colour, temperature, sensation, and motor function. Assessment of neurovascular status is essential for the early recognition of symptoms that can lead to disability, loss of limb or fatality.
In-flight care

7. In-flight care

Sophie administers and monitors Tyler’s pain medication and comfort levels to ensure his condition doesn’t deteriorate during flight, inputting further patient notes via the EHR to provide awaiting ambulance crews and hospital staff with as much prior information as possible.

Patient handover

8. Patient handover (2)

The crew returns to RFDS Alice Springs Base, where Tyler is handed over to St John Ambulance NT on the apron* and immediately transported to Alice Springs Hospital for further treatment.

*The area of an airport where aircraft are parked, unloaded or loaded, refueled, boarded, or maintained.
Tyler Kunoth

“I don’t know if it’s shattered or broken, but I’m flying with the RFDS – a great mob and good for looking after me.”

- Station worker Tyler mid-flight with the RFDS to Alice Springs