Winching out of a helicopter and rubbing shoulders with the top Australasian trauma surgeons and anaesthetists has theatre nurse Renee Heimgartner hitting career highs with the New Zealand Army Reserve Force.
Lieutenant Heimgartner, 30, who grew up in the Dannemora/Botany area, was part of the team which took part in a specialist team-building activity at Whanganui Hospital last month, which drew together Regular Force and Reserve Force clinical specialists from New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) Health.
Personnel who usually operate in different hospital settings carried out some elective surgical procedures on adult patients at Te Whatu Ora, Whanganui.
Heimgartner is both a theatre nurse and an anaesthetic technician, a qualification she picked up studying through the NZDF after enlisting in 2019.
Through her training she has been able to attend courses such as the NZDF aeromedical evacuation training.
“I learnt the physiological effects of altitude and flight on critical care patients and the physical limitations and challenges of managing patients in flight,” said Heimgartner.
“It is a challenging environment to be caring for critically unwell patients, the training is intensive and really challenges our skills as medical professionals.”
Heimgartner also completed the Dynamic Surgical Trauma Course in Brisbane in 2020. She felt privileged to be chosen to attend.
“It’s virtually inaccessible in my civilian practice. It was run by top trauma surgeons and anaesthetists in Australia and New Zealand and we were immersed in the world of damage control surgery.”
Before joining, Heimgartner had no exposure to military life.
“It was definitely a challenge, but it was a good challenge for me in my role.”
Juggling different work commitments wasn’t new to Heimgartner, who works in a casual capacity for her local hospital and does contract work throughout New Zealand and Australia.
She recommended her medical peers join the Reserve Force if they wanted a challenge and the opportunity to grow both personally and professionally.
“It’s different from normal life. You get to do such a variety of things, like being winched out of a helicopter during aeromedical training. Things like that would usually take years to do.”
More information on the NZ Army Reserve Force can be found at www.defencecareers.mil.nz or phone 0800 1 FORCE.