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12 February, 2021

Years have flown by for nurse

CAIRNS local Susan Markwell says working as a flight nurse for the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) is one of the most rewarding jobs in the world.

By Tanya Murphy

She is celebrating 30 years of service since she officially became an RFDS employee on February 4, 1991.

Prior to that she had already spent four years working with the RFDS as an employee of Queensland Health’s Division of Child Health.

Ms Markwell said her passion for rural and remote nursing began in Charleville.

“The country lifestyle, people and the diversity were fascinating,” she said.

“As the only nurse working in isolation, the work was 24/7 on-call, using initiative to organise the clinics and arrange patient evacuations. It has remained a worthwhile and long-lasting challenge.”

 “In 1990 I moved to Cairns RFDS in a child health and evacuation role, servicing areas such as Far North Queensland and Cape York Peninsula, including four large Indigenous communities. My passion only grew from there.”

Ms Markwell said she still loved her job as every day was different.

“Currently, as a flight nurse, I do emergency evacuations as part of the Cairns RFDS team. The roster is based on 12-hour shifts, either day or nights,” she said.

“You know when your shift starts, however, you never really know when you will finish or where you will be going.”

She said the RFDS in Queensland had developed and expanded a lot over the past 30 years to include services to seven medical bases, a dental unit and mental health programs.

“The RFDS is vitally important to the communities we serve,” she said.

“The Cairns region is responsible for establishing several play groups and educational Field Day events for remote communities, and has achieved some of the highest rates of immunisations in Australia.

“It has been exciting work to make these and other projects viable, valid and instrumental in improving the services which the RFDS provides.”

Ms Markwell said she highly recommended the job to other aspiring flight nurses.

“This is one of the best nursing jobs if you want to work hard in a challenging and exciting environment of constant change. Attaining the necessary qualifications can be daunting – but definitely rewarding,” she said.

The RFDS in Queensland has several nursing vacancies at present, including in Cairns. For career information visit:

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