‘I thought I was sicker than the patient’

As part of our Doctors of Australia project, we speak with Dr Penny Burns, from Sydney, NSW.

I was with the Royal Flying Doctors Service based in Cairns. It was an amazing time. But when I was doing emergency medicine, I was pregnant and I had terrible morning sickness.

I would go out onto the King Air aeroplane, jump on board, sit at the back with my little vomit cup and vomit away. I would clean up before we got to the patient.

By the time you get them on the plane, they are pretty stable. I would then duck into the back of the plane and vomit for part of the trip back.

Sometimes I thought I was sicker than the patient.

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I once reviewed one of Professor John Murtagh’s textbooks. I had turned up at one RACGP convention and there he was standing around.

So I walked up to him and said: “Look I’ve reviewed your textbook and it was great but there’s no disaster management section.”

After a session at the convention, he came over to me with a twinkle in his eye and said: “Penny I have a job for you. I want you to write two pages on disaster medicine for the next textbook.”

Apparently he had put disaster management in the first textbook, but felt it was not useful so he took it out. So we managed to put those two pages in again.

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