I arrived in Auckland about 3 weeks ago and up until now it’s been far more than I could’ve imagined! As part of my 4th yr of EM residency subspecialty training I’ll be working part-time with the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust (ARHT) and also on my Master’s of Medical Education. As result, I’ll have an opportunity to help with some exciting new education and simulation projects at the base! But first off since I’ll also be doing some clinical work with ARHT, I had to do an induction process for helicopter/retrieval medicine. Over the past year, through some innovation by Chris Denny (my supervisor), ARHT has brought physicians onboard the helicopters. So far, this trial has been extremely successful. Before transporting patients, I had to learn the basics of helicopter safety and helicopter medicine. This is a phenomenal learning experience! Over the past 4 years of residency, I’ve become increasingly comfortable taking care of sick people. Well that was turned upside down now that some of patient care happens in the helicopter! Basically its like going back to kindergarten. Everything that I’m used to having, doing, seeing and hearing is gone! It’s an entirely different environment and you simply can’t use the same resources that are available within the emergency department. I’ve had to learn that for most of the transport I’ll be buckled in, barely able to move. The fact I’m 6’3″ doesn’t exactly help, as whoever designed helicopters clearly didn’t anticipate people would be over 5’8″! Once you’re all buckled in and the helicopter is flying, it’s way too loud to speak to the patient. We take verbal communication for granted in the ED but now I have to plan head with hand signals or hoping that the patient can lip read!
Luckily I’m working with an outstanding group of paramedics who have tons of experience. I rely on them to help me in this new environment. This pic is taken from where I sit within the back of the helicopter.