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What Are Flight Surgeons?

Doctors do not just work within medical establishments such as hospitals, clinics, health centers, or asylums but doctors also have a long history of working with the military since the army is in need of medics for when they get injured in battles such as suffering from gunshot wounds, fractures or bone injuries, or even an amputated body part. Medical Corps or flight surgeons is the term for doctors or physicians that are working under the military.

This article will further elaborate on the roles and works of a flight surgeon in the military.

Flight surgeons are doctors that are working with the military service as well as astronauts in outer space. In every aircraft and spaceship mission, there is an assigned doctor who will tend to the passengers’ medical needs in the aerial vehicles. There might be some confusion towards the title “flight surgeon” since people will immediately assume that they could be surgeons in a flight, however, they handle the medical assistance towards the crew members in the air or in space.

With flight doctors as one of the passengers, medical help such as dealing with stress, motion sickness, or other serious medical problems will be accessible even if they are a thousand feet from the ground.

What are the Responsibilities of a Flight Surgeon?

  1. A flight surgeon undergoes training which includes the subjects about:
  1. Physiology of flight.  Which studies about how the body reacts while in the air.
  2. Occupational medicine. A subject which focuses on the treatment of conditions, illnesses, or diseases caused by labor or work.
  3. Environmental Hazards. Another subject is about environmental hazards that could be harmful for the crew members and what could be the possible treatment for it.
  4. Investigation of aircraft. This subject deals with the study of aircrafts and space shuttle accidents. This subject could also help in reducing risk.
  1. Providing care for the pilots of the aircraft or the space shuttle, and the crew members is one of the responsibilities of a flight surgeon. They must always consider the well-being of their patients in terms of physical and mental health, and they must also take note of some factors regarding their situation in the air, which some diseases could be different from caring for a patient on the ground.
  1. A flight surgeon’s duties involve the following:
  1. A flight surgeon must diagnose and treat their patients’ illness or disorders caused by the aerospace environment.
  2. Flight surgeons also work with crew members in order to support and maintain their physical and mental health while they are up in the air.
  3. Lastly, a flight surgeon is responsible for treating their patients in the aerospace environment with both acute or short-term illness or chronic which is a long-term illness.

What are the Roles of a National Aeronautics and Space Administration or NASA Flight Surgeon?

Aerospace medicine focuses on the medical care towards passengers in an aircraft and space shuttles. It costs a huge investment for the people and the organizations that are involved in preparing for a flight mission or launching an aerial or space vehicle at flight. They must also ensure that the participants of the mission are healthy which is why a flight surgeon must also be attending in a mission to ensure its success.

NASA assigns flight surgeons to every crew member who is preparing for the mission in space. The assigned flight surgeons are responsible for the astronaut’s well being and medical evaluations. They are also responsible with their training before, during, and after their spaceflight.

During the duration of the mission, the flight surgeons work in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Mission Control Center. Flight surgeons also communicate with the astronauts every week. They can treat astronauts in the aerial environment and as well as their loved ones in the terrestrial environment, sometimes try to reach out to their loved ones in space through making house calls.

Flight surgeons also travel upon launching to space and landing sites to provide medical support.

How Does One Become a Flight Surgeon?

In Australia, if someone wants to become a flight surgeon, they must complete training with the Australian College of Aerospace Medicine and they can also take the following degrees that are relevant to becoming a full-fledged flight surgeon:

  1. Medicine/Surgery
  2. Biomedical Sciences

How Long Does it Take to be a Flight Surgeon?

In general, in order to become a flight surgeon, one must undergo extensive preparative training and study to obtain a medical doctorate or M.D., or a doctorate of osteopathic medicine or D.O. Which normally takes about six to eight years of coursework in college as well as hospital residency.

The RFDS or the Royal Flying Doctor Service is an organization established in Queensland, a state in Australia, and they are always committed to eradicating the shortages of health practitioners in the rural and remote areas of Australia. The Royal Flying Doctor Service also provides training and education for students who are pursuing the medical, nursing, and allied health programs. This organization also provides student placement under agreements between several universities.

The involvement of students is highly encouraged and the Royal Flying Doctor Service is always committed in supporting rural and remote areas and helping them out in their issues.

Besides medical related programs, the Royal Flying Doctors Service also support other universities and organizations that are involved in the training and education students as well as other health professionals.

How Much Do Flight Surgeons Get Paid in Australia?

In Australia, the average base salary every year of a flight surgeon is around $462,060 AUD. Their average hourly rate amounts to $222.14 AUD, and lastly, in addition to their salary, a flight surgeon’s average bonus amounts to $43,341 AUD.

The Bottomline

In conclusion, a flight surgeon does not necessarily perform any surgical operations while they are in the air but instead, they serve as the nurses or medics of every crew member in an aircraft and space shuttle.


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