Reply To: Is there a doctor on board?

Back to Forum


OK…just to add my two pence worth from a cabin crew perspective.

Over the past near 20 years working onboard i’ve seen my fair share of in-flight medical emergencies. No offense what so ever to those amazing doctors out there, but given the choice between a GP/consultant and say a nurse or paramedic the nurse of paramedic would win with me (and I think I probably speak for most crew) every time.

Firstly, an aircraft is not a hospital. It is a unique environment that offers a limited scope in terms of medical facilities. Most of the doctors don’t seem to grasp that. Also, cabin crew are only trained to a certain level medically. This is another issue that doctors don’t seem to grasp. My last medical emergency a doctor asked me to ‘draw up’ a syringe with blah blah blah in it!

Secondly, I know in a hospital situation the doctor is god. In the air, the situation is a little different. The captain is in charge and there are certain procedures we need to follow. The first of these is to initiate contact with the air-to-ground service Medlink. I recently had a scenario where after establishing contact with Medlink they asked some general questions regarding pulse rate etc of the patient. When I asked the doctor for these details I had the most condescending reply ever. They were not interested in passing on any information to Medlink or co-operating with our procedures. After administering some drugs, the same doctor suggested we move the very overweight lady to one of the crew rest bunks (there were no empty seats) – so move someone that has just suffered a suspected angina attack up a steep narrow ladder to an overhead crew rest area???

Of course nothing can replace a ‘real life’ medical professional. But the involvement of medlink is essential. Firstly, they are aviation medicine specialists. Secondly, they know every item of medical equipment and every drug we carry on board. Thirdly, they know what medical facilities are available on the ground at potential diversion airports (which is an important factor when flying over africa etc). And finally they act as a liason between us in the air and those on the ground at a diversion airport.

Doctor/Nurse + Medlink involvement = ideal situation.

Nurses and paramedics seem more open to being asked questions, taking advise, cooperating than doctors. I guess maybe it is a reflection of their day to day life in a hospital environment where as doctors ive encountered do not want to be questioned.

Anyway, thats my experience. Nurses and paramedics, 10 out of 10 in onboard emergencies. Doctors, amazing stuff you do but you’d always be my second choice. Sorry!

Be up-to-date
Magazine Subscription

To see our latest subscription offers for Business Traveller editions worldwide, click on the Subscribe & Save link below