Flight Nursing: A hidden profession
Genevieve Brideson / Lydia Mayner / Eileen Willis
Flinders University, Flagstaff Hill, Australia
Genevieve completed her general nurse training in 1985, Midwifery in 1993 and Bachelor of nursing in 2000. She commenced flying in 1991 on commercial flights with critical care patients and then with Royal Flying Doctor Service Eastern Goldfields (now Western Operations) in 1993. She moved in hospital management roles at the end of 2007, but flight nursing has remained her passion. She completed honours in 2010 examining how flight nurses in Australia maintain their midwifery skills and graduated with a PhD in September 2017 that explores contemporary Australian flight nurses work.
Everyone recognises the iconic Australian organisation, the Royal Flying Doctor Service. However, the general public and most healthcare providers are completely unaware that 85% of the time the person caring for you in the back of the aircraft is a Flight Nurse, not a doctor. In 2014/15, 52,000 patients across Australia were cared for by a Flight Nurse working alone in the aircraft. The work of these highly skilled, autonomous registered nurse midwives remains a concealed, under explored area of the nursing and midwifery professions.
This presentation provides an overview of my PhD study examining the work of contemporary flight nurses in Australia. Flight Nurses’ scope of practice is extensive and variable, inclusive of all ages across the population and multiple specialities, encompassing pre-hospital, trauma, emergency and intensive care; mental health; midwifery; and primary healthcare, to name a few. This work is of great importance because flight nurses hold the key to the esteemed international reputation of excellence enjoyed by Australian aeromedical healthcare providers.
My analysis revealed Flight Nurses work has been impacted deeply by gender, class and the political climate of the last 30 years in Australia. In 2018, women continue to struggle for recognition of their work and equality of working conditions against ingrained societal values. The neoliberalist policies of the Australian Government, the utilisation of new public management strategies and the influence of regulatory capitalism, also impact upon their work in a number of spheres, including producing work intensification and increasing regulation. The significance of these findings will be discussed during the presentation.