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Flight Nursing & Medical Repatriations Interview With A Real Nurse! Say Hi to Brooke From Southern Cross Assist!

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Hi there people in Travel Tart land. Today I’ve got a great interview with Brooke Norton who is a director of a medical repatriation and flight nursing company called Southern Cross Assist.

Southern Cross Assist - Medical Repatriations &Amp; Flight Nursing For Private Hire &Amp; Travel Insurance Companies
Flight Nursing &Amp; Medical Repatriations - Brooke Norton, Southern Cross Assist

She’s a repatriation nurse that brings people home from overseas when they’ve run into strife for all sorts of reasons. And believe me, you’ll never know when you might need her! You might thank me one day for introducing her to you! 

Anyway, she was crazy enough to say yes for an interview request, so here it is. You’ll find this really eye opening! And some of you might be up for some adventure with flight nursing jobs!

Flight Nursing and Medical Repatriations – What Really Happens!

The Travel Tart: Hi Brooke, thanks for the opportunity to chat. For those out there in internet land who have managed to stumble across this interview miraculously in between all of the cat videos, tell us a bit about yourself.

Brooke Norton: After working for a travel insurance company in an office for many years, I decided it would be much more fun getting out and about and actually picking the patients up, so I set up Southern Cross Assist. I now get to combine to 2 great loves, nursing and travel.

Medical Repatriations

The Travel Tart: I’m sure people think it sounds glamorous travelling around the world to bring sick people home. I’m sure you have to check out all of the Travel Alerts out there, dodgy planes and deal with jet lag. But what are the actual realities of what you do as a medical repatriation professional?

Brooke Norton: You can be sent any where to pick someone up, and with that has its challenges. Minimal preparation time before flying out, negotiating local transport to get to the hospital, then the language barrier of trying to explain to the Doctor that the patient should have bowel preparation before the flight (complete bowel clearing) if the patient cannot walk to the toilet. But when the pre-flight assessment has be completed, you do have 24 hours down time before the flight with the patient, which is definitely a perk of the job.

The Travel Tart: When you’re young and think you’re indestructible, lots of travellers think they’ll be fine by riding a scooter without a helmet (and sometimes drunk – see my numerous scooter related posts at renting scooters in Thailand, adventure motorbikes, bucket seats in China, masters of transport and logistics, funny motorcycle photos, how to ride a bike with an ox, motorbike transport services in Vietnam, Motorbikes for kids, cow transport and the multipurpose scooter!), or shagging up a storm without protection and expecting to come home without a groin itch.

Scooter And Family | Travel Insurance | Flight Nursing &Amp; Medical Repatriations Interview With A Real Nurse! Say Hi To Brooke From Southern Cross Assist! | Air Ambulance, Backpacker Travel Insurance, Brooke Norton, Emergency Assistance, Flight Nurse Jobs, Flight Nursing, Flight Nursing Jobs, How Much Do Travel Nurses Make, Medevac, Medical Evacuations, Medical Repatriation Companies, Medical Repatriation Jobs, Medical Repatriations, Medivac, Repatriation Nurse, Southern Cross Assist, Travel Assistance, Travel Insurance, Travel Insurance Blog, Travel Insurance Nurse Jobs, Travel Nurse, What Is A Flight Nurse | Author: Anthony Bianco - The Travel Tart Blog

But the reality is, no one is indestructible. What’s the most confronting case that you’ve come across? You know, one that made you cry?

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Brooke Norton: We picked up a lady from the Cook Islands who had been sun baking under a coconut tree, had it fall on her head, and she sustained a fractures skull and a brain bleed. She was actually lucky to be alive…..those coconuts can be very heavy!!

The Travel Tart: Ouch! A few years back, my sister’s arm was accidentally clipped by a minibus taxi in Mozambique, where the driver was trying to avoid a few potholes.

Worst Drivers In The World

That incident ended up fracturing her arm. Because the medical equipment there was so dodgy, it wasn’t picked up until a couple of weeks later in Hong Kong. What’s the most bizarre overseas medical case you’ve come across in regards to someone travelling overseas?

Brooke Norton: One of our Doctors picked up a man in Thailand who had had a heart attack whilst at a brothel. We knew this from the information on the medical report. He, of course, didn’t discuss it with our doctor as his wife was also accompanying him on the flight home.

The Travel Tart: I interviewed Dr Deb, The Travel Doctor a few years back about some of the shit that happens to people when they’re travelling overseas. In your qualified opinion, are people who travel overseas without at least medical travel insurance setting themselves up for a potential Darwin Award?

Brooke Norton: You can be as careful as possible, and still get injured or unwell. Even avoiding all the “risky” foods, you can still get a severe case of gastro from your fried fish. You never know when you will trip over your own feet and fracture your ankle, or walk past a beach, admiring the beauties on it, and face plant a bus stop. Medical expenses are steep, even in third world countries.

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The Travel Tart: In that case, what was the most expensive medical case you’ve come across? That is, if someone didn’t have travel insurance and had to pay the bill by themselves?

Italian Ambulance Service

Brooke Norton: We repatriated a lady from rural Italy with a fractured pelvis after falling over. She needed a stretcher installed in the back of the aircraft to bring her home as she couldn’t sit in a chair. It took an air ambulance linked with a commercial stretcher to bring her home, at a cost of $78,000 AUD. An air ambulance from Europe though is anywhere around $250,000 AUD.

The Travel Tart: What’s the worst ever medical facility or hospital that you’ve ever had to drag someone out of to take back home? I’ve been to a hospital in Kosovo where everyone (including the nurses) smoked up a storm within the wards, plus the floor was so filthy I thought there was less dirt outside!

Brooke Norton: I’ve seen some shockers. When picking someone up from China, there was no kitchen facility in the hospital, so the families had to cook for their unwell loved ones. The corridor was filled with family members and their portable cooking equipment. The patient was told to urinate and defacate in her pad as the nurses there don’t get people up to the toilet as required.

The Travel Tart: Yuck. That is a shocker! And leading on from that, one of the funniest signs ever is the ‘African Doctor‘ who is also a ‘Casino Specialist’.

African Doctor - Witch Doctor

During your flight nursing career, have you ever clashed heads with a medical professional overseas where their medical opinion was somewhat dubious?

Brooke Norton: The Chinese hospital mentioned above gave me the patients discharge medications which was a variety of Chinese herbs. I’m sure I would’ve had some explaining to do coming through Australian customs with how dodgy they looked. Lucky we always carry our own medical kit including medications, so we actually know what we are giving the patient.

The Travel Tart: One of the funniest, but quite disturbing signs I’ve seen was in Malawi which was about medical professionals being abused as part of their job. Considering that you’re in a caring and helpful professional field, have you come across any crap like this on one of your repats from one of your patients?

Health Worker Malawi Africa

Brooke Norton: I could give you many examples of this from my nursing in ED which I do when I’m not flying, but thankfully haven’t experienced anything like this on a repat, the patient is so happy to be coming home that you’re seen as their saviour.

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The Travel Tart: I would like to think so! I’m delving into a bit of Australian Slang here. Have ever told someone on a flight nursing repat who’s not Australian that ‘they look crook’ (Australian Slang for ‘sick’), and received a WTF look back in response?

Flight Nursing

Brooke Norton: I’ve had to use the google translate app a few times for patients that don’t speak any English. If I had to type in crook they’d be wondering why I’m calling them a criminal.

The Travel Tart: You might need to communicate via emojis one day! I’m really adventurous with food when I travel overseas. I’ve tried deep fried caterpillars, cow’s nose in satay sauce, and guinea pig from Peru. Have you ever had to treat someone because of a dodgy food related issue?

Brooke Norton: We did some work with a cruise ship company to assist with their repatriations, and whilst on board they had an outbreak or gastro from the crew getting off in Manila in the Philippines to eat fertilised chicken eggs.

Food Poisoning Bali Belly | Travel Insurance | Flight Nursing &Amp; Medical Repatriations Interview With A Real Nurse! Say Hi To Brooke From Southern Cross Assist! | Air Ambulance, Backpacker Travel Insurance, Brooke Norton, Emergency Assistance, Flight Nurse Jobs, Flight Nursing, Flight Nursing Jobs, How Much Do Travel Nurses Make, Medevac, Medical Evacuations, Medical Repatriation Companies, Medical Repatriation Jobs, Medical Repatriations, Medivac, Repatriation Nurse, Southern Cross Assist, Travel Assistance, Travel Insurance, Travel Insurance Blog, Travel Insurance Nurse Jobs, Travel Nurse, What Is A Flight Nurse | Author: Anthony Bianco - The Travel Tart Blog
Surely you wouldn’t get food poisoning from this? 🙂

They were still in their shell, they’d crack them, add some salt, and eat the dead baby chickens inside. Thankfully anyone with gastro can’t fly so we don’t have to deal with that.

The Travel Tart: I won’t go as far as eating that Balut stuff! And finally, what’s your best medical travel joke? Mine is ‘traveller’s diarrhoea is hereditary, because if runs in your jeans….’ Boom Boom!

Brooke Norton: Funny that all good medical travel quotes are around diarrhoea. Mine is “people say love is the best feeling. I disagree. Finding a toilet when you have diarrhoea is better.”

The Travel Tart: Thanks for chatting!

Brooke Norton: Thanks for having me 🙂


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2 thoughts on “Flight Nursing & Medical Repatriations Interview With A Real Nurse! Say Hi to Brooke From Southern Cross Assist!”

  1. Avatar Of Ryan Biddulph

    What a fun interview Anthony. A hearty LOL on the kid in a trash basket on a motorbike. SE Asia all the way. I once saw a family of 5 on a motorbike in Cambodia. Little kid standing on the back seat, holding onto mom. Even our Cambodian taxi driver pointed at them and started laughing.

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