International Nurses Day (May 12) celebrates the contribution of nurses around the world who this year, more than ever before, have had the spotlight shone on them acknowledging their incredibly important and noble profession.
Working on the frontline of the Royal Flying Doctor Service’s COVID-19 response in Western Australia requires a team effort, says flight nurse Fiona Yard.
Based in Broome, Fiona is one of 52 flight nurses across Western Australia who ensures a ‘mantle of safety’ for people living in regional and remote communities.
The Kimberley region is twice the size of Victoria and three times the size of the United Kingdom. Aeromedical flights undertaken within the Kimberley region are long due to the vastness of the region, especially if patients require transfer south to Perth or north to Darwin where specialist care is available.
Embedding COVID-19 infection control processes and patient transfer procedures into day-to-day operations to ensure the safety of crews and patients has been an intensive and ongoing effort.
“It is more challenging treating patients in our Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), but the safety of our crews and patients is of the utmost importance,” Fiona said.
“Each tasking is longer, especially with post-flight procedures which include equipment and aircraft decontamination and disposal of protective gear which is an intricate process.
“We have been training and working hard as a team to ensure a streamlined and efficient process when retrieving patients with suspected COVID-19. We are very much all in this together and we are grateful to the community for staying at home, social distancing and helping to flatten the curve.”
Fiona is no stranger to the demands of the nursing industry – remote communities with limited healthcare access, unique situations and challenges that build her typical work day as an aeromedical practitioner.
Armed with a Bachelor of Nursing, Bachelor of Midwifery and a Masters in Child Health, Fiona’s nursing career began in the Northern Territory where she got her first taste in remote nursing.
She later worked for the RFDS in Queensland for 12 years before transitioning to the Broome base in March 2019.
Not looking back since joining the Flying Doctor crew, Fiona recalls many experiences and stories that have made for great memories throughout her career.
“I have been exposed to many unique situations; from landing on main roads and dirt roads where no other landing options are available, transporting patients on the back of utes, in helicopters to delivering babies in remote communities,” she said.
“I cannot express enough how amazing our team of flight nurses are. They are the most hard working and caring people who face many challenges on a daily basis.
“When the going gets tough, we laugh together, we cry together, and the support and backing from the community keeps inspiring and pushing us forward.”