Graphic: What drives an RFDS Flight Nurse

What drives an RFDS Flight Nurse - Laura Bratby

Date published

08 Dec 2017

In a job where no two days are the same, flight nurse Laura Bratby is motivated by mental resilience, a supportive team and knowing she’s helping people who need her the most. 

Beginning her nursing career in a hospital emergency department, Laura fell in love with the fast-paced environment and the challenge of never knowing what she’d be dealing with next. From early on, Laura had her sights set on joining the RFDS and never let go of this goal. 

After dedicating her time to building her skills by gaining a midwifery qualification and working in an intensive care unit, Laura readily accepted a flight nurse role in Mount Isa. Today, Laura works at the Brisbane base and there are stark differences between the RFDS and the hospital environment she once knew. 

“It can be daunting going from a big hospital where there are a number of nurses and doctors, to the back of a plane in a remote area. It can be just you and the pilot, often without a doctor. But I always say we wouldn’t be in the job if we weren’t completely confident in our clinical knowledge and skills.”

RFDS Flight Nurse

Up in the air, Laura and other flight nurses and doctors have another job many people may not realise – they are flight crew too! Because of this, sometimes, she can be required on flights when not clinically involved with a patient. The extensive orientation and training familiarised her with aircraft and safety routines, as well as preparing her for situations she’d be facing on a daily basis. 

While Laura’s focus is always on the frontline, she knows she couldn’t do her vital job without the experienced people behind the scenes. She describes her team as amazing, caring and highly knowledgeable and loves how her colleagues in non-medical roles are contributing to life-saving work and the mission of the RFDS.

“Everyone in the team is there because they want a job that means something more.” 

Laura and her team never tire of the rich reward that comes with meeting people who are always appreciative of RFDS. She is yet to meet anyone who isn’t incredibly thankful for the RFDS and how they help. The intense pride and affiliation that the entire team feels is something Laura knows is unique to RFDS. She is always quick to encourage others to join, but only if they’re up for the challenge!

Laura emphasises that strength, mental resilience and leadership are essential to handling the unique pressures of being a flight nurse. 

“If you’re the type of person who needs structure this job isn’t for you. You need to be agile and always ready to go. You have to be mentally strong and willing to back yourself because if you don’t, it’s a disaster waiting to happen. At the end of the day, if you’re out there on your own, you just have to get it done and be confident in your skills.” 

From visiting remote places she would otherwise never dream of, to working in a diverse team, Laura says she cannot see herself leaving the dynamic environment she has grown so used to. 

“It would be so hard for me to go back to a hospital now. At RFDS, you never know what you’re flying into. You turn up to the base with the pilot, pack the plane and fly out to the patient. The dynamic working environment is invigorating.”