From loading critically injured patients on red dirt runways to making lifesaving split-second decisions mid-air, a new partnership between Charles Darwin University (CDU) and CareFlight is opening placement opportunities with a difference for students.

This year the organisations signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to allow for CDU health students to undertake clinical placements with CareFlight.

The MoU will support the CDU Menzies School of Medicine through establishing clinical placements for future medical students and build on existing training such as the School’s aeromedical retrieval courses.

CareFlight nurse and midwife Tom Vidins has worked for the organisation for more than seven years. Mr Vidins began his health career in Queensland and after moving to the Territory, working at Royal Darwin Hospital, and studying a Bachelor of Midwifery with CDU, he made the lifechanging decision to join CareFlight.

“Everywhere you go is unique from winching into Maguk for exhausted travellers, to going to outstations outside of large communities. We get to go to places that only exist in other people’s imaginations,” Mr Vidins said.

“You get to walk into communities and see where people live, what they have access to and what they don’t, and it opens your minds to how the determinants of health play in.”

He said the partnership was an exciting opportunity for students, who would find it a challenging and eye-opening experience.

“You develop autonomy in practice. We talk about this in hospitals and various fields of health but when you’re in an aircraft by yourself with a very sick person, you realise what you’re capable of,” Mr Vidins said.

“You have access to people on the end of a phone but you’re the one with hands on the patient. You develop really good communication skills and you have to be able to build a picture of what you’re dealing with quickly, so someone who can’t see what you’re dealing with can build a mental picture.

“We treat a lot of tropical and developing world health issues. Exposing students to that is difficult but it’ll give them a taste of what we’re able to do and what services are around, as well as the conditions they’ll be exposed to, would be a great opportunity.

“It’s exciting we’re building these partnerships.”

CDU Menzies School of Medicine Foundation Dean Professor Dianne Stephens OAM said the MoU was a significant step to boosting the local health workforce.

“The partnership between CDU and CareFlight NT is built on a shared vision for building and training a health workforce right here in the NT to improve health outcomes across all our communities,” Professor Stephens said.

It comes as the CDU Menzies School of Medicine has applied for 40 out of 80 Commonwealth Supported medical places in the Increasing Rural Medical Training Grant Opportunity.

CareFlight Northern Operations Nursing Director Amanda Quinn said the partnership would provide invaluable training experiences.

“Partnerships such as this between CareFlight and CDU are key to continue strengthening our local health workforce and their capabilities to provide critical care in the harsh conditions of the Northern Territory,” Ms Quinn said.

“This agreement will allow us to build on the collaborative partnership CareFlight and CDU developed over several years, enabling us to build on existing training such as the CDU Menzies School of Medicine’s courses in aeromedical retrieval, and for us to and explore potential research opportunities.”