RFDS Primary Health Care Nurse Kathleen Loadsman reflects on her years of service this Anzac Day.

A lifetime of service

Date published

25 Apr 2023

RFDS Primary Health Care Nurse Kathleen Loadsman reflects on her years of service this Anzac Day.

Kathleen Loadsman standing with Anzac Day display.

When Kathleen Loadsman started her nursing career 51 years ago, she never knew it would entail volunteering for the Australian Volunteers International (AVI) and Australian Red Cross, overseas missions for the Army Reserves and remote nursing in the Cape with the RFDS.

Kathleen grew up in northern New South Wales and was the first child of seven to move out of home and take on a nursing career as a registered nurse at the Prince Henry Hospital in Sydney.

During her time working in the spinal injuries and neuro units a friend convinced her to join the Army Reserves, and since then she has never looked back.

“Joining the Army Reserves opened so many doors for me,” Ms Loadsman said.

“It gave me the courage to think outside the box and to challenge myself with different experiences within my nursing career.”

Kathleen was commissioned as a Nursing Officer in 1978 and reached the rank of Major in 2001.

In her early years of service, she trained soldiers as medical assistants and worked as a Recruitment Officer for the medical units she was posted into.

While the experience was rewarding, Kathleen was constantly looking for new challenges and reached out to the AVI and later the Australian Red Cross for volunteer work.

In 1986 Kathleen went with AVI to Papua New Guinea, working in a large mission hospital and surrounding communities.

“I was visiting villages doing child health checks, attending antenatal clinics and working in the mission hospital as the Clinical Supervisor,” Ms Loadsman said.

“It was brilliant, I signed on for two years, and then loved it so much I stayed for another two years.”

During the last year Kathleen worked overseeing 11 church rural health centres in West New Britain Province.

Kathleen then returned to PNG a decade later to Bougainville for a year, working with community health workers training village birthing attendants.

Kathleen’s four Australian Red Cross missions as health delegate saw her travelling and working with International Committee of Red Cross, in Kenya, Eritrea, Afghanistan and in Myanmar.

“My experience with the army gave me the skills to do field work and to learn how to work with what you’ve got,” Ms Loadsman said.

Kathleen standing infront of an aircraft in her army uniform.

Kathleen’s favourite memory of the Army Reserves was when she completed two deployments with the Peace Monitoring Group in Bougainville (where she later worked as a volunteer.) The army service was honoured with an Australian Service Medal.

“You can work in some hospitals and have all of the best technologies at your fingertips but working in the remote you quickly learn you don’t have everything at hand, which forces you to think outside of the box," she said.

“I found these basic skills helpful particularly in developing countries.”

After years of volunteering and serving for the army Kathleen took the opportunity to join the RFDS as a Primary Health Care Nurse working in communities in the Cape in Far North Queensland.

“Many don’t realise that RFDS is not only aeromedical,” Ms Loadsman said.

“The primary health care service to our first nation communities and remote townships is a such a vital component.

“We travel into and stay within the community, seeing to their health needs, acute and chronic.

“One of the best parts of working with the RFDS is the people you work with, just like working in the army reserves and volunteering – it’s the camaraderie.

Kathleen working for the Army Reserves.

“I grew up on a farm, I wasn’t very brave and I was never very adventurous growing up.

“It wasn’t until I joined the Army Reserves that I realised – I can do this.”

Several of our RFDS Doctors, nurses, pilots, mental health clinicians and support staff attended Anzac Day services across the state today, Kathleen will be among them.

“This Anzac Day I’m going to take time to remember those who have past, honour those who are still presently serving and reflect on my years of service,” she said.

“It’s been an adventure.”