Doctors ready to take their careers to new heights

The newly appointed Critical Care Doctors were thrown in the deep end – literally – during Helicopter Underwater Escape Training (HUET), before being suspended several metres in the air, during live winch training.

They also had to retrieve crash test dummies from mock car crash scenarios, practice roadside surgeries and practice treating a patient in a high noise and high stress environment, like a house party, to ensure they are familiar with all situations that can be encountered out in the field.

Australia doctor, Paul Baker, is one of those new recruits and has begun work on board the Sunshine Coast RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopter. 

He completed his first winch rescue over the weekend, treating an injured bush-walker who’d fallen around 10 metres at Table Top Mountain, in Toowoomba. 

Prior to starting with LifeFlight Paul spent 10 years as an intensive care paramedic in Adelaide, before completing a medical degree.

For the past two years he has been working at the Sunshine Coast University Hospital. 

Paul said what he has been looking forward to the most is getting back out on the front-line. 

“The challenge of doing this job by yourself and the challenge of going and helping people, in different environments, on the worst day of their life,” Paul said.

LifeFlight recruits some of the most highly-skilled doctors from around the world and within Australia.

The hand-picked few then undergo rigorous training, to qualify as medical retrieval registrars and ultimately work on board the RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopters.

One of the most daunting scenarios the trainees go through, is the Helicopter Underwater Escape Training (HUET), at the LifeFlight Training Academy in Brisbane. The doctors are put through a mock helicopter crash and must free themselves to swim to safety.

“It’s a tool that we use to teach people the skills to be able to stay orientated. Orientation is the biggest problem with people not being able to get out of helicopters. Worldwide we’ve got aircraft going into the water, people survive the impact, it’s the water, disorientation, that distracts people and they fail to get out,” HUET manager Mick Dowling said. 

The new recruits also undertake a round of training to ensure they are familiar with the aircraft from an operational perspective.

This includes being safe and competent on the winch.

“Because of where our bases are located, many of our doctors will conduct numerous winches over their time here. Anything from rescuing a lost bush walker, to someone who’s broken their ankle while they’re climbing up the side of one of the Glasshouse Mountains,”  Chief Aircrew Officer Simon Gray said. 

The role of a LifeFlight doctor is a highly sought after position, with new recruits employed twice a year.