A Jill of all trades

Date published

31 Oct 2018

For Mount Isa Medical Officer, Michelle Hannan, working for the RFDS gives her the best of both worlds – following both her passions in clinical and emergency medicine. Awarded Rural Registrar of the Year at the 2017 Rural Medicine Australia conference, Michelle is a rising star within the RFDS Queensland Section.

From growing up in rural Goondiwindi, to forging her career through work and study right across the country, a career with the RFDS was always in Michelle Hannan’s future.

While pursuing her studies in Medical Science and Medicine at the University of New South Wales, Michelle attended the Rural Clinical School in Wagga Wagga, where she undertook a year-long placement in Tumut. Remaining in Wagga for her internship and residency, it was here Michelle had her first experience in the ICU and emergency wards, gaining invaluable knowledge and first-hand experience.

Never one to let dust settle, Michelle then moved to Tasmania to do both general practice and emergency work for a period, while also lecturing at the University of Tasmania and running a vineyard.

“It’s not typical to have a job that allows you to provide both GP services and emergency care, however that was what I wanted from my career,” Michelle said. “I knew if I wanted to follow both of my passions, I could find that mix in rural medicine which was always something I wanted to do. I’ve had a lot of fantastic rural medicine mentors over the years who have really helped shape my idea of what I wanted my clinical practice to look like.”

Always striving to further her knowledge and career in medicine and health care, Michelle earned her Fellowship of the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine with advanced training in Emergency Medicine, and she is currently working towards a Master in Public Health and Tropical Medicine at James Cook University.

Michelle and the RFDS

Michelle’s hard work and determination finally payed off, securing her current position at the Royal Flying Doctor Service in Mount Isa.

“This job can be really challenging, and it’s always interesting,” she said. “For me, it’s a very different form of medicine. It’s Rural Generalism at its core. There’s a lot of very complex chronic medicine involved, particularly for our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients, and you do feel like you are making a difference for the community. The emergency retrieval side of things adds another exciting element to the job, but one aspect I really enjoy is that many of the evacs we perform are for our clinic patients whom we know well.”

However, with the excitement comes the challenges, especially in remote locations. Michelle has experienced this first-hand numerous times, including recently when the Mount Isa crew, including Michelle, were called to a serious car accident. With only a vague report of where the accident was, Michelle and her colleagues had to think quickly on their feet.

“In a situation like that, we need to figure out if there’s a serviceable strip nearby we can land on, or a road strip, or if we need to ask one of the remote nurses to take their ambulance out. Once we get there, it can then take time to stabilise the patient and get them into the aircraft,” she said.

“It was clear when we got to this accident that this patient needed to be flown straight to Townsville Hospital, and fortunately we were able to fly her directly to the tertiary care she needed.

“In this job, there’s always something going on – whether it be someone walking through the door at the clinic or calling for the plane – the possibilities are endless.”


For Michelle, working for the RFDS has given her a whole new perspective on rural and remote medicine.

“Even though you do cover quite large distances, the populations are small and you get to know each person well – it’s more personal, which I really like,” she said.

“The people I work with and the rural and remote Australians I meet are truly inspirational. The local people are always so grateful for our help and are very supportive of the RFDS. I love what I do. I couldn’t think of a better career path, especially with the RFDS, and I would definitely encourage other doctors to think about this as a career option.”