Future Focus: Aidan Jackson

Elective with the Royal Flying Doctor Service

Aidan Jackson, final year medical student at the University of Melbourne, undertook his elective with the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS), Western Ops, Port Hedland Base. Aidan had the opportunity to stabilise and transport patients throughout the state, all while flying over the breathtaking Australian outback.

After multiple COVID-related postponements, Aidan was finally able to travel to the Pilbara to work with the RFDS where he learnt lots about medicine in a remote context, aviation medicine, Indigenous health, and primary and preventative care.  

Meekatherra Base

My elective with the RFDS was a combination of retrieval medicine and primary care, and was a great way to practice my basic clinical skills in preparation for Internship next year. ‘Retrieval days’ were certainly the most unpredictable and exciting part of the elective. These times – both day and night shifts – were spent waiting for urgent transfer requests to come through, and stabilising, treating and transferring patients to care elsewhere in the state. I not only learnt a lot here, but was able to practice my basic skills including assessments, handovers, IVCs and bloods and suturing. I was in awe of the doctors and nurses who were cool under pressure and completely nonplussed by whatever came up.

I was also able to travel to some towns for their weekly GP clinics. It’s a stark reminder of just how good we have it in the city! During the days and nights throughout my elective I travelled to small rural towns, remote Indigenous communities, mines, along the coast and down to Perth, often on multiple flights per day. I saw a lot of illness, disease and injuries in people from all walks of life. Occasionally on return flights when there was no patient in the plane, I was able to sit at the front with the pilot, which was fantastic.Whilst ‘retrieval days’ had a lot of downtime between flights, the doctors were fantastic in keeping up their clinical skills. The RFDS base at Port Hedland has a fully equipped Resus Bay that is complete with simulation dummies and devices. I was able to talk and act through many emergency scenarios with the expert emergency and retrieval specialists, including cardiac arrests, drug overdoses, multi-trauma injuries, and shock. These were great ways for me to practice my clinical skills, learn management techniques and make mistakes in a safe environment. I sincerely appreciate the time and effort that the RFDS medical staff spent teaching me both inside and outside of the plane.


One of the great opportunities that this elective provided, was the chance to witness some of the unique challenges faced by Australians in areas such as remote WA. The considerations and challenges are completely different if you live remotely and have chronic disease, need regular check-ups, or are pregnant, unlike for those in our cities. Only having a GP come to your town once a week requires a high level of organisation. I also gained an insight into many of the difficulties faced by Indigenous Australians in accessing and utilising healthcare.

I had the honour of being invited into Indigenous communities during GP clinic days, where the conditions there frequently served as a stark reminder of the social determinants of health. The next generation of medical experts face a tremendous task in assisting Indigenous people in their communities to improve overall health outcomes.


During my down-time I was able to explore the Pilbara, including the areas around Port Hedland, as well as further south near Karratha. I spent a weekend exploring Millstream-Chichester National Park, the highlight being Python Pool which was an oasis in the middle of a dry, harsh environment – 4WD definitely necessary! It is such a beautiful part of Australia and a reminder for me of how lucky we are in this country to have the natural beauty that we do, and how important it is to protect it.

I’m very grateful to BOQ Specialist for providing me with a FutureFocus grant. This allowed me to pursue this elective, one that had been a dream of mine for many years. I feel extremely fortunate to have had this opportunity to develop my clinical skills and I would strongly encourage any medical student thinking about taking an elective to do so - you never know where it might take you! 


Developed exclusively for medical and dental students, each year the BOQ Specialist FutureFocus grants provide students with the opportunity to undertake an elective so that their commitment to helping others can be realised. Applications for our FutureFocus Grant open in May and close in August. 

You can also access funds to help undertake an overseas placement, with our Student Banking Package.


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