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Flying doctors to the rescue for scholarship students needing a lift

Hannah Forde

Nothing gives you a better insight into the challenges of delivering health care in outback Australia than by taking to the air with the experts.

That’s exactly what Tasmanian students, who won scholarships to work with the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS), had the opportunity to do. The trio travelled to regional and remote areas to gain an insight into how the RFDS provides health services to people in their waiting room, which is more than 7 million square kilometres.

University of Tasmania student Hannah Forde, who graduates from a Bachelor of Medicine/Bachelor of Surgery this month, was the 2019 recipient of the Fred McKay Medical Student Scholarship.

For two weeks Hannah was on placement at the RFDS Broken Hill Base, working as an observer in an aircraft. One of the more interesting clinics she attended was run out of someone’s house on a large station.

“I thought it would be an amazing opportunity and it was,” Hannah said.

“I took six flights, covering rural NSW and SA and I was a little nervous about flying in a small plane at first, but the pilots were excellent and let me sit in the cockpit for some of the flights.”

“It was really interesting to see the different access to health care that people in rural Australia have got and I received lots of great tips from the doctors and nurses.”

Rebecca Flanagan won the Robin Miller RFDS Nursing Scholarship and went to South Australia for her placement. Both students received their awards last month for the scholarships. They are a partnership between the University of Tasmania and RFDS designed to give students practical nursing, dental and medical experience in remote Australia.

RFDS Tasmania CEO John Kirwan said the annual scholarships kick-started careers that he hoped would enhance the health service in Tasmania now and in the future.

“The scholarships have given the students the opportunity to gain a greater understanding of how their chosen career improves the health of rural and remote communities and to appreciate the valuable contribution that the RFDS makes to thousands of Australians each year,” he said.

Published on: 09 Dec 2019 2:53pm