In January, the first recipient of a new Royal Flying Doctor Service (Queensland Section) (RFDS) midwifery scholarship has taken to the skies over North West Queensland.
Nicole Smith was the recipient of the RFDS Dalara Midwifery Scholarship, which saw her midwifery studies funded and her dream career working as an RFDS flight nurse realised.
The Dalara Foundation is a philanthropic fund run by long-term RFDS supporters, Alan and Lyn Davies and their family. The Davies spent most of their lives living in rural and regional Australia, including Mount Isa, and understand first-hand the importance of the RFDS.
“I’ve wanted to work with the Flying Doctor ever since I was working as a remote nurse in the Northern Territory about 11 years ago,” Nicole said. “I remember clearly an RFDS aircraft coming in to land on a remote, dirt airstrip and just thinking to myself, ‘I want to do that!’”
A standard requirement exists for all RFDS Flight Nurses in Queensland to be registered midwives. And it was Nicole’s first aeromedical retrieval that showed her exactly why this is the case.
“My very first flight in Mount Isa was a priority one obstetrics case out of Doomadgee. We managed to get her safely to Mount Isa Hospital and she had a positive outcome,” Nicole said.
“It took me a long time to work up the courage to do my midwifery training, and it was only after I took the plunge and enrolled that a friend sent me a link to the RFDS scholarship, which I applied for and to my surprise, I received.
“It’s completely unbelievable that I’m here. It’s a dream come true.”
RFDS (Queensland Section) Nursing Manager Aeromedical Training, Maree Cummins said the need for Nicole and her nursing colleagues to be trained and qualified midwives was due to the array of circumstances which can arise in a day of a Flying Doctor Flight Nurse.
“Our Flight Nurses care for patients of all ages, from neonates to the elderly, and all medical and surgical conditions,” Ms Cummins said.
“This includes pregnant women requiring aeromedical transfer to specialist maternity services not available in rural and remote Queensland. Often this is because the woman is in premature labour and needs to be in a major hospital with specialist neonatal services where the baby can be cared for after delivery.
“The financial impost often deters critical care nurses from undertaking further post-graduate midwifery studies. However, this scholarship helps relieve that financial burden.”