Retrieval Nursing in a Measles Outbreak – the experience of two AUSMAT members in Samoa

Mr Dan Martin1,2, Ms  Jacintha Pickles1

1SAAS MedSTAR, Adelaide Airport, Australia, 2James Cook University, Townsville, Australia

In November 2019, at the request of the Samoan Ministry of Health, the Australian Federal Government deployed the Australian Medical Assistance Team (AUSMAT) to assist with the response to one of the worst public health crises in the Pacific regions history.  The AUSMAT deployment rotations of nurses, doctors, logisticians, and allied health clinicians worked alongside Samoan health care personnel to care for critically ill patients, support a mass vaccination campaign and record epidemiological data.

Whilst this was not a natural disaster in a traditional sense, the sheer volume of patients requiring care during this public health emergency overwhelmed the capacity of the Samoan healthcare system. Critically unwell children were required to be moved between clinical areas within the facility on a daily basis. The purpose of this presentation is to discuss the applicability of retrieval nursing skills and experience to this unique, hospital-based public health crisis.

Retrieval clinicians are well rehearsed at forming teams and adapting clinical practice to meet the dynamic and evolving needs of critically ill patients in complex and challenging environments. Retrieval nurses are inherently meticulous and routinely consider and evaluate real and potential worst-case scenarios prior to packaging, securing and maintaining patient access in a resource limited plane or helicopter. In a transport environment that bears the consequences of no formal escalation pathway and support, having an agreed and predetermined plan is paramount to mission success and patient safety.  This skill of anticipating clinical course and patient need in the event of patient deterioration proved an instrumental aid in the ethical management and intra-facility transport of critically unwell children.

This presentation will reflect on the specific clinical scenarios and experiences that two retrieval clinicians encountered in Samoa, the lessons learnt and the benefits of having experienced retrieval clinicians as part an AUSMAT deployment.


Dan is the Nursing Director for SAAS MedSTAR in South Australia and Jacintha is the Operations Lead Nurse for SAAS MedSTAR Kids. Dan is a current Nursing Clinical Lead for AUSMAT with deployments to Banda Aceh, Fiji and Samoa and Jacintha is a newly trained team member with 2 deployment rotations to Samoa. Both have extensive critical care and retrieval experience and as part of a team,  transport critically unwell patients by road ambulance, rotary and fixed wing aviation platforms.

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