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On 2 August 2023, Dr Mark Winstanley joined our specialist crew as Great Western Air Ambulance Charity’s (GWAAC) newest pre-hospital emergency medicine (PHEM) trainee.
Dr Mark is an emergency medicine trainee. His ultimate plan is to be an emergency medicine and PHEM consultant and hopefully return to GWAAC as one of our Critical Care Doctors in the future.
When asked why he wanted to train with GWAAC, he said, “I like the trainee pathway here; how it’s split over two years with two weeks on shift and two weeks off. I know people who have trained here before and I know it’s a friendly working environment with varied exposure to different types of trauma patients and medicine.”
He is currently spending 50% of his time at Bristol Royal Infirmary doing emergency medicine and 50% of his time doing PHEM training at GWAAC.
Before coming to GWAAC, Dr Mark completed a one-week residential course in Lincoln with national PHEM trainees. He spent his first two weeks at GWAAC learning and observing. He said, “I’m now getting more involved with hands-on care while learning about the equipment which is a little different to what I’ve been used to in hospital.”
Having survived his “choppy” first flight in GWAAC’s helicopter, Helimed 65, Dr Mark compared our nimble air ambulance to the more spacious helicopters he’s been on: “The bigger Chinooks feel pretty sturdy and can grind to a halt very quickly — it’s quite impressive, and also a little terrifying. In GWAAC’s lighter aircraft you get blown around quite a lot.”
Dr Mark said his training has been going well: “Getting exposure to a wide and inclusive team and learning things from different people have been the best things about working at GWAAC so far. It’s a busy service and it’s been good to get out and get involved in the jobs in local communities.”
He acknowledged that making the move from treating patients in hospital to out-of-hospital was always going to be the biggest challenge. He’s learning how to use his medical skills in a different environment – one with different kit, different people, and a different location each time.
So what drives this medical man? Dr Mark said, “Although we (at GWAAC) spend a short time with patients in their care pathway, we can do a huge amount to facilitate their care such as giving critical care treatments and advanced pain relief… You can make a big difference to the patient and their relatives in a short space of time, much like in an emergency department.”
To illustrate his point, he gave an example of a recent GWAAC mission to a trauma patient: “Being able to facilitate giving blood and extricate the patient and getting them to hospital in a better state than they were when we arrived was very rewarding.”
Career-wise, his biggest achievement to date is getting a pre-hospital job: “It’s been getting more and more competitive over the years. To rank high enough to get your first choice of job is something I’m really pleased about. On a personal level, (he chuckles) my biggest achievement is surviving two children!”
An interesting fact about Dr Mark is that he also survived being in a circus show as a child. A unique experience that involved swinging through the air on a trapeze and speeding around the ring on a bike with eight other people.
But despite his high-flying career and adventurous nature, he does know how to wind down; he plays a lot of golf and likes to hit the open road on his bike.
Dr Mark’s three favourite things are skiing, bounty bars and coffee, or even better — bounty bars dunked in coffee! and watching sports.
His three most hated things are olives (after a food poisoning incident), being late, and bad driving.
Sometimes, his love of coffee and his hate of being late can pose a problem: “It can be a challenge when you need a coffee but if getting a coffee makes you late…what do you do?”
When asked to describe himself in one word, Dr Mark said he is easy-going; a trait that will stand him in good stead with bringing up his two young children.
Getting exposure to a wide and inclusive team and learning things from different people have been the best things about working at GWAAC so far. It’s a busy service and it’s been good to get out and get involved in the jobs in local communities.