Clinical Fellows and HELICOPTERS...



Will the post involve any flying in helicopters?

Yes, our 12-month Clinical Fellow posts with PHEM do give you the opportunity to go flying, assuming you want to - it isn’t compulsory.

You’ll need to be able to pass the EMRTS fitness test (a timed carry 20kg pack over one mile of varied terrain followed by passing a cognitive test at the end, e.g. an BLS/ALS scenario, followed by a two-person 70kg stretcher lift) and you must not be pregnant - see the section about Occupational Health!

Our Clinical Fellows have been working some shifts with the Welsh Air Ambulance, based at Caernarfon airport, 25 minutes drive from Bangor, since 2012. And since July 2017, when Helimed 61 at Caernarfon came under the auspices of the Emergency Medical Retrieval and Transfer Service (EMRTS), our Fellows have joined EMRTS as supernumerary crew members - experiencing a full consultant-led, RSI-capable blood-carrying UK HEMS service for the first time.

We have up to 8 places available on EMRTS at a time, and in the event of more applicants wanting to do EMRTS shifts than there are places, this would be decided on interview ranking. Since August 2018, six-month posts sadly cannot include EMRTS shifts, and “PHEM with something else” probably won’t either, unless we have fewer than eight “pure PHEM” people wanting to fly.  

All the Clinical Fellows with an includes-EMRTS post who wish to fly (it is not compulsory) will be taken for a few initial shifts, following which you will be assessed by the EMRTS Crew for your suitability (primarily based on your team working ability) to fly alongside the regular EMRTS crew as part of the operational team.

If you are accepted to fly operationally, EMRTS shifts will be bookable along with WAST RRV and ambulance shifts.

There are some important considerations about EMRTS: these shifts being with them some added responsibilities, and your continued access to EMRTS shifts is conditional upon your willingness to undertake these responsibilities:

  1. Minimum of 18 and absolute maximum of 22 EMRTS shifts (we may cap at 18 to enable us to maximise the number of Fellows with access to EMRTS)

  1. You will be expected to undertake some EMRTS shifts at weekends - this will be in addition to your weekend EM commitment of 3 in 8. On average, you’ll need to be willing to work 6-7 weekend shifts in a 12-month period. This will bring your weekend commitment up to approaching 1:2 (but obviously you’ll get weekend time off to compensate for any PHEM shifts undertake at weekends)

  1. You must attend at least 3-4 of the EMRTS Clinical Governance meetings (in person, or by VC). Obviously, with all our PHEM Fellows who have EMRTS shifts trying to attend the same meeting, this can be tricky. Attending half a meeting via VC before a middle-shift is possible, but you will need to be prepared to potentially move around your holiday plans etc to accommodate attending sufficient of these meetings. Having said that - they are a valid use of your paid-but-not-timetabled SPA time, so you just have to remember that work “owns” about 4 weeks of your “time off”!  

  1. Fellows are expected to participate as far as they can in EMRTS governance processes, training, quality improvement and training, within the constraints of their primary role within their own Health Board.

  1. You will be expected to present a case or project/paper in one EMRTS Clinical Governance day, participate in a quality improvement project during their time at EMRTS and undertake at least one outreach/teaching visit to a relevant location (e.g. ambulance station). All of this is valid use of your paid-but-not-timetabled SPA time.

  2. You will also be expected to participate where appropriate in Wales Air Ambulance activities (e.g. cheque presentations, base visits).

Please note, though, the occupational health note regarding weight... it is unfortunately possible to be too fat to fly with Helimed. And from August 2017, you’ll have to take the EMRTS Fitness test to be allowed to fly.

As for our Search & Rescue friends, since the switch to Bristows SAR from July 2015, we no longer have access to SAR Helicopter observer shifts and are currently unable to ascertain whether and when we will be able to resume the opportunity for Clinical Fellows to fly with the current SAR service (we previously managed to get most of our Fellows one day flying with the RAF Sea King). 

Important things to bear in mind:

  1.     If you don’t want to go flying, you don’t have to!

  1.     If you try flying and hate it, that’s fine, you don’t have to go again.

  1.     If you find that flying makes you ill (e.g. severe air-sickness, or difficulty achieving pressure equalisation in your ears) it’s probably better to find out sooner rather than later, as these might preclude your planned long-term career in PHEM.

  1.     Whilst UK helicopter ambulances have a very impressive safety record, there is a reason that we make it a condition of employment that you join the Intensive Care Society to get personal accident/life insurance for undertaking PHEM work.... and if you have a large mortgage and dependents, you might want to check that your life insurance policy includes travelling by air ambulance as an employee before selling your soul to PHEM and getting addicted to Helimed!   

  1.      This is NOT purely a HEMS job... it’s intended to provide you with a broad-based introduction to UK PHEM. You cannot spend all your PHEM time on EMRTS - apart from the fact that would defeat the purpose of the posts (this post is designed to enable you to see the full range of PHEM, not just the high-acuity helicopter jobs) the Clinical Fellows have to share aircraft slots with the Welsh PHEM sub-speciality trainee and Clinical Fellows from Glan Clwyd hospital’s ICM Clinical Fellow programme for the “jump seat” on the aircraft (although they also go to the Welshpool air base) and there are only so many flying slots to go round.