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Flight nursing in Australia: Adapting for the future through a review of the literature

Genevieve Brideson / Lidia Mayner / Eileen  Willis
Flinders University, Bedford Park, Australia



Genevieve completed her general nurse training in 1985, Midwifery in 1993, Bachelor of Nursing in 2000, with honors in 2010, examining how flight nurses in Australia maintained their midwifery skills. She commenced flight nursing in 1991 on commercial flights with critical care patients and then commenced work with RFDS Eastern Goldfields (now Western Operations) in 1993. She moved into acute hospital management roles at the end of 2007, then to academe in 2011, but flight nursing has remained her passion. Genevieve’s PhD research examining the work of the contemporary flight nurse in Australia is currently under examination.


Introduction: Flight nursing’s origins are grounded in civilian and military settings, with a variety of individuals and countries involved.  Flight nurses in Australia care for patients as the sole health professional in the back of the aircraft 85-94% of the time therefore, they hold the key to Australia’s international reputation of excellence for aeromedical healthcare service provision. However, the work of these highly professional autonomous nurse midwives remains invisible - a concealed, under explored area of the nursing and midwifery profession.

Methods: An in-depth search of the English literature was conducted from 1900 to 2015. Search terms included flight nurse; aviation nurse; aeromedical nurse; ambulance nurse; critical care transport; critical care transport team; aeromedical transport; aviation critical care transport / transfer; truncation and combinations of the search terms with and / or were used. CINAHL, MedLine, Proquest, Ovid SP, TROVE, Web of Knowledge and Web of Science databases were searched. Systematic searching of the grey literature also ensued. Inclusion criteria for the review comprised any studies that examined or investigated flight nurses work; were full papers published in a peer reviewed journal; either qualitative or quantitative research methodology and written in English.

Results: Database searches revealed a number of studies (n=426). Examination of the grey literature increased the total number after removal of duplicates (n=525).  However, when critically reviewed for the topic of interest by title and abstract, four hundred and thirty (n=430) did not address flight nurses work. Remarkably, only two (n=2) of these studies were from Australia, published ten years apart. Further results will be discussed during the presentation.

Discussion: There is a wealth of knowledge of flight nurses work situated as evidence within the popular cultural literature however, peer reviewed research studies into the important work of this group of highly autonomous professionals are limited.



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