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From reality show to real life rescues

LifeFlight Doctor Lars Oma has worked in the Norwegian Army, as a doctor for television shows, and led several expeditions in the Himalayas.

His latest challenge has brought him to Queensland to become a LifeFlight Doctor.  

“The pre-hospital system is fascinating, I’ve always been attracted to it. A lot of my Norwegian colleagues have been coming to Australia to get experience in it so I really wanted to come and experience it myself,” said Dr Oma. 

The anaesthetist is one of 22 new LifeFlight Retrieval Medicine recruits who have just completed two weeks of rigorous clinical and aeromedical training, to prepare them for their new roles as LifeFlight Doctors at its 10 aeromedical bases around the state.

“The training was awesome. Really interesting people, the instructors were great, the facilities were great,” said Dr Oma. 

The doctors were exposed to challenging aviation training, including Helicopter Underwater Escape Training (HUET), and winch rescue training – where the doctors were suspended metres in the air. 

They also learned how to work with Queensland Fire and Rescue Services to safely rescue a patient from a car crash.

Dr Oma takes up his first role today at LifeFlight’s Roma base with the SGAS service, catering to the South-West region.

He will then move to the Townsville base, and potentially move around the state to other bases between Cairns and Brisbane.

Dr Oma already has some experience working on helicopters as part of the Norwegian Alpine Rescue service.

He’s also no stranger to working in an out-of-hospital environment, having been hired as a doctor for the Norwegian version of the television show, The Amazing Race. 

“We flew around the globe more or less and ended up filming some of it in Sydney and Melbourne, in the Blue Mountains and on the east coast of Australia, which was amazing,” he remembered. 

Dr Oma hasn’t been to North Queensland yet, but is looking forward to the experience.

“I brought my wife and three kids from Norway. I’ve never been to North Queensland but I do understand it’s super tropical, and it will be a really amazing place to have a small adventure,” he said. 

Doctors travel from around the world to work with LifeFlight – a world class aeromedical service which has been operating for 36 years.

Most have years of experience in emergency, anaesthetics or intensive care medicine. 

“They’re often specialists in their field. However, they may not have been exposed to the pre-hospital care environment so we need to train them so they can apply their skills from the hospital and transfer that to a field environment,” LifeFlight’s Director of Training and Education Dr Jeff Hooper said.

Dr Hooper said the training was the key to preparing the doctors to treat patients anywhere, and at any time. 

 “We try to expose them to as much as possible with pre-hospital clinical situations as well as performing their work in an aeromedical environment,” said Dr Hooper. 

“The new doctors are always really excited, it’s an exciting time and there are lots of new things for them to learn and it is fun.”

LifeFlight Retrieval Medicine employs around 130 doctors and nurses every year. The doctors fly on board RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopters and jets, as well as on other aeromedical operators around the state including the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS), CQ Rescue in Mackay, Capricorn Rescue in Rockhampton and QGAir services.

Last financial year, LifeFlight doctors across the network treated more than 4,800 patients locally and abroad across 18 countries.

At any hour of the day, there is an average of two LifeFlight Doctors in the air around Queensland, saving lives. LifeFlight doctors treat and transport more than 10 patients every day.

The new intake of doctors will be stationed at aeromedical bases around Queensland including Brisbane, Sunshine Coast, Toowoomba, Townsville, Cairns, Mackay and Rockhampton.