Graphic: women of the rfds

Celebrating the women of the Flying Doctor

Date published

08 Mar 2021

In celebrating International Women's Day, the Flying Doctor invites you to get to know some of our dedicated crew who work tirelessly to ensure all who live, work and travel within WA have access to essential healthcare.

Graphic: ss

Meet RFDS Senior Inventory Controller Erin Carr 

“Whenever I see the RFDS on the news, I instantly get goosebumps and my first thought is ‘Yes! Go team!’,” said RFDS Senior Inventory Controller Erin Carr.

Ask Erin about an aircraft part and she’ll launch in and show you where you can find it in the RFDS’ engineering warehouse with ease. She says accruing 15 years of experience working with the RFDS’ in-house engineering team at Jandakot Airport helps!

In her role, Erin ensures the RFDS’ avionics and mechanical engineers have the aircraft parts they need to maintain and service the RFDS’ 19-strong airline fleet. Managing stock in the warehouse, performing stock takes, processing invoices, budgeting and forecasting is also part of the role.

“The guys are like my family. We’re a strong team. If you’re passionate about doing something, don’t hold yourself back just go for it," Erin said. 

Erin says the job is challenging and sure does keep her on her toes with the RFDS’ aircraft fleet clocking nearly 8 million kilometres each year to reach more than 9,000 patients across Western Australia.

When asked what key skills and attributes the job requires, Erin says having patience, the humility to ask for help, being able to problem-solve on the go and navigating through stressful situations is vital.

“Often when I’m out and about in my uniform I get stopped by people who want to share with me their appreciation of our service or a story of a time they or a friend flew with us. It’s quite a humbling experience,” she said.

“I also often get asked if I’m a doctor, nurse or pilot and when I say I work in the engineering department and manage the logistics of our aircraft parts, their faces light up.

“I share with them that without the aircraft parts our engineers couldn’t repair the aircraft and our pilots couldn’t fly our doctors and nurses to our patients.

“I thank people for their support because it is only with their help that we are able to continue to keep flying.”

Marianne Testi

Meet Flight Nurse Marianne Testi

Flight Nurse Marianne Testi is the Flying Doctor’s longest serving flight nurse having served regional and remote communities across Western Australia for more than 30 years.

Starting with the Flying Doctor in November of 1990, Marianne is no stranger to a challenge. She has navigated through periods of great disruption with advancements in technology and medical expertise over three decades.

Beyond working with patients in the regions, since the outbreak of COVID-19, Marianne who is typically based in Broome has been temporarily stationed at our Jandakot base playing an instrumental behind-the-scenes role in ensuring the safety of crews and patients as we worked through the pandemic.

Each RFDS aircraft is equipped with aeromedical equipment and Marianne has been tasked with reviewing all equipment within aircraft and streamline infection control and decontamination processes. As a result, all medical equipment used by the RFDS is now kept in COVID-proof casings to maintain the highest standards of infection control in the close confines of our aircraft.

On 2 January 2021, Marianne was again tasked to respond to a major incident when a fire engulfed the RFDS base in Broome. Marianne was instrumental in ensuring temporary operations were established within just a few days and no impact was experienced by a single patient from the North West.

Leesa Equid

Meet RFDS Dr Leesa Equid

When Leesa (pictured left) commenced as a retrieval registrar for the Flying Doctor in Western Australia a year ago, she came armed with plenty of experience working in Emergency Departments (ED) at major hospitals across Australia and in Auckland.

Over the last year, Leesa has relieved at the RFDS’ regional bases in Broome and Kalgoorlie before being stationed at Jandakot on a part-time basis while also working at Joondalup Health Campus’ ED.

She says her experience working with the Flying Doctor has given her a greater appreciation of how people living in regional and remote communities access healthcare and a taste for emergency evacuations.  

“Prior to joining the RFDS, I had very limited insight into the health service delivery outside of Perth metro and would not have been able to place the locations of many town names in WA,” she shared.

“It has opened my eyes to what services are available and what people are able to achieve with limited resources and helps me guide my management of receiving referrals when I’m working in ED in Perth.

“I have learnt from my experience that there are so many people who are doing amazing things in the most remote locations getting patients from the regions to definitive care – from rural nurses, rural GPs, first-aiders, to volunteer ambulance officers to name a few.

“The RFDS’ motto of bringing the ‘finest care to the furthest corners’ really holds true when working for the organisation.”

Graphic: Karleigh Barbour

Meet RFDS Dental Assistant Karleigh Barbour

Driving along the iconic landscapes of outback Western Australia and encountering bulls and other wildlife while on the way to visiting patients is the norm for Karleigh (pictured left) and the RFDS Western Operations dental team.

Having worked for the RFDS for nearly four years, Karleigh revels in taking critical dental health services to some of the most remote and isolated communities in Australia.

Karleigh said besides geographical distance, people living in remote communities typically face barriers such as the relative high cost of dental treatment, a lack of awareness around the importance of oral health, and not having the population size to support a full-time dentist.

“The team and I travel far and wide across the state educating people on the importance of good oral health and provide the best dental treatment in town. How amazing and rewarding to be a part of the bigger picture!”

Tanya Ronaldson

Meet RFDS Dr Tanya Ronaldson

Dr Tanya Ronaldson (pictured end right) is a strong advocate for providing healthcare to people living in some of WA’s most isolated remote communities through her work with the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

An experienced GP and retrieval doctor, Tanya has cared for people living in communities across the Midwest, Pilbara and Kimberley regions of WA since commencing with the Flying Doctor in 2012.

Tanya is a passionate advocate for women’s health, remote healthcare and Aboriginal health. Since 2017, Tanya has worked out of the RFDS’ Broome base and provided care to patients at the RFDS’ ‘fly-in fly-out’ clinics held across Western Australia’s vast Kimberley region. These clinics provide much needed medical services in locations that do not otherwise have regular access to medical practitioners.

Her commitment to providing the best possible care to remote Indigenous communities and reducing health inequity has seen her drive culturally sensitive initiatives which have increased patient uptake at clinics.

This includes setting up gender-specific clinics and an accessible contraception clinic so women living in the remote Fitzroy Valley can feel safe and comfortable when receiving care.

Most recently, Tanya was named one of three finalists in the Rural Health West 2021 Awards ‘GP of the Year’ category due to be announced this month. We wish her good luck!

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Meet RFDS Administrative Assistant Sue Taylor

If you've ever encountered Sue Taylor, you'd pick up straight away she's a woman on a mission.

Armed with coordination, logistics, customer service and administration skills, Sue is a force to be reckoned with. 

Primarily supporting the aviation and engineering team, Sue's tasks on any given day can involve issuing uniforms to crew, preparing orientation or induction schedules for new staff, assisting the chief pilot with airstrip emails, sending out annual updates to all airstrip owners and caretakers, arranging travel and accommodation for crew - to just name a few.  

Ten years ago, when Sue joined the Flying Doctor she first commenced in the marketing department when the RFDS had a souvenir shop across the road from the Jandakot base. 

"I used to like speaking to all the people who came to the shop, usually pensioners who had come out for the day with the grand kids," she said. 

"I think the work of the RFDS is very important to those who live and travel in our vast state and I think it brings everyone a bit closer together and that distance is not so much of a factor when we can take to the air and get our patients to the care they need in the quickest possible time. 

"I just love it when our aircraft fly over and I feel proud to see them in the skies. Due to the high demand, it is not very often that they are not flying and I thank the engineering team for keeping them maintained and flying."