Doing the best in preparing for the worst

Caren Harrison1, Katherine Isbister2

1 Royal Flying Doctor Service, RFDS Drive, Aeroglen, Cairns 4870,
2 Royal Flying Doctor Service, RFDS Drive, Aeroglen, Cairns 4870,


The Royal Flying Doctor Service (Queensland Section) has a long and proud history of providing emergency care for those living in rural and remote Queensland.

This presentation will highlight a unique health promotion program which helps enable people to prepare for the arrival of the aeromedical team and treat patients on the ground with basic first aid.

The RFDS (Qld Section) Field Day program is held throughout the year at station properties, roadhouses and national parks across Queensland, and involves family groups, workers, and visitors from the surrounding areas. Each property is visited once or twice during the year with the team flying in for the day offering a multi disciplinary service. The core team consists of a Pilot, Registered Nurse, Medical Officer and Health Promotions Officer with support as needed from RFDS Mental Health professionals.  The day consists of a small clinic for opportunistic health care and health education, often consisting of emergency first aid, contacting the RFDS, emergency night landing and treating people utilizing the RFDS medical chest where available. There is also a focus on health promotion and education; whereby RFDS Qld staff talk about the importance of healthy lifestyles and encourage health and wellbeing amongst the people of rural and remote Queensland.

The hosts and participants of the field days are also able to proactively identify areas they wish to know more about – snake bite management, quad bike accidents, general trauma and cardiac emergencies, preparing a remote property for an emergency fixed wing retrieval are all but a few of the education sessions facilitated this year. This ensures when the aeromedical team arrives, the people on the ground have the skills and perseverance to commence the delivery of emergency care through innovation and adaptation.

In providing information and training to individuals and communities in rural and remote settings and providing the education to respond appropriately to injuries, illnesses and unplanned evacuation situations, patients and communities are ultimately empowered and supported by RFDS Qld Section. In providing health education, RFDS also enables people to increase control over, and improve their health. This fosters a firm spirit of teamwork, communication and collaboration between RFDS Queensland and the people of rural and remote Queensland.


Caren Harrison is a Registered Nurse and Midwife, with multiple post graduate qualifications and Masters in Nursing. She has been working for the Royal Flying Doctor Service for seven years as a flight nurse/midwife and has recently commenced as Aeromedical Nurse Manager. Caren trained initially in the UK and worked mainly in trauma/emergency theatres and emergency departments. Since emigrating to Australia in 2002 she has worked in large inner city emergency departments, rural and regional hospitals (including nurse only posts) and aeromedical retrieval. Caren has a passion for providing evidence based nursing practice in an aeromedical retrieval environment.

Katherine Isbister is a Registered Nurse and Midwife, with qualifications in critical care, education and a Masters in Public Health. She has been working for the Royal Flying Doctor Service for the past eight years and her current position is Manager, Integrated Operations.Katherine trained as a nurse in the UK and worked mainly in intensive care. Since moving to Australia in 2003 she has worked in general practice, rural and regional hospitals, aeromedical retrieval and latterly primary health care.She has a passion for supporting and developing nursing and health services that provide quality care to those living in some of the most remotest parts of Australia.