ACU (Australian Catholic University)

Insight

Issue 9, Winter 2013

Off your bike

Off your bike

ACU Senior Lecturer in Nursing Dr Joe Perry, has a bad crush on motorbikes, but has found a way to put it to good use. Sara Coen finds out how Phillip Island’s Superbike World Championship has become a top training ground for ACU student nurses and paramedics.

He has been a senior member of the Phillip Island Circuit medical team for 11 years now – and this year, more than 40 ACU student nurses and paramedics joined him trackside on the medical team as volunteers. 

“It’s the ultimate microcosm for professional health care,” Dr Perry said. “The students are getting exposure to the incident, transfer of patient, treatment and aftercare – all at one event,” he said.

“Witnessing an accident as it happens, and being seconds away from the scene, is a rare opportunity for student paramedics and nurses. They are learning about mechanism of injury by watching how the riders tumble and the nature of their fall.” 

“In a hospital situation, patients usually arrive in a fairly stable condition – they have already Superbike racing is all about showcasing the latest generation of high-performance four-stroke street bikes.

As seven manufacturers set to battle it out  for Phillip Island’s 2013 Superbike World title – Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, Ducati, BMW, Yamaha and Aprilia – the medical team braces itself for collateral damage. 

Phillip Island has one of the highest average speeds of any circuit in the world. Italian world champion Max Biaggi has been known to reach 319.8km/h down the main straight on his Aprilia V-4. That’s potent performance and potentially lethal.

After seven years as an intensive-care nurse, and more than 13 years lecturing at ACU’s School of Nursing, Midwifery and Paramedicine, Dr Joe Perry has a high threshold for critical incidents.

He has been a senior member of the Phillip Island Circuit medical team for 11 years now – and this year, more than 40 ACU student nurses and paramedics joined him trackside on the medical team as volunteers.

“It’s the ultimate microcosm for professional health care,” Dr Perry said. “The students are getting exposure to the incident, transfer of patient, treatment and aftercare – all at one event,” he said. 

“Witnessing an accident as it happens, and being seconds away from the scene, is a rare opportunity for student paramedics and nurses. They are learning about mechanism of injury by watching how the riders tumble and the nature of their fall.”

“In a hospital situation, patients usually arrive in a fairly stable condition – they have already been ‘pre-packaged’ to a certain degree by the ambulance crew. 

“The trackside experience is raw. Students are present from the initial stages of injury and get a real sense of the full impact of what the patient has actually been through.

“Students are learning practical skills such as lifting and carrying patients safely onto stretchers, effective communication, and working effectively as part of a medical team.” Medical team volunteers are strategically positioned behind the tyre wall at various high risk collision points around the circuit. Dr Perry and a group of ACU students are stationed on high alert at MG Corner – one of the tightest turns on the track.

The strong winds off Bass Straight, a slight drizzle of rain and recently resurfaced track is wreaking havoc for the riders.

“It’s been a rough ride so far,” Dr Perry said. “The bikes are mechanically tuned to handle specific track conditions based on last year’s data as a starting point – so the new track surface is causing chaos,” he said.

“We’ve already had nine stacks in the first 15 minutes. Scrapes, cuts, burns and grazes mainly – nothing too serious. We’ve also had a slight concussion and that rider is being air-lifted to hospital for a CT scan, just as a precaution. 

“Our aim to get the patients off the track and to the Ambulance Victoria base on the circuit for further medical attention, or hospital transfer if required.”

The top priority for the medical team is to remove injured riders from the track quickly, efficiently and safely, without causing any further injury. A simple code system helps the team gauge the amount of time, effort and equipment involved in getting the injured rider clear of the track. 

“Crystal clear communication is essential in professional health care,” Dr Perry said. “The code system creates a framework where everyone knows what to expect and is on exactly the same page.”

“A code 0 is a rider who can get themselves off the track; a code 1 is a rider who requires some assistance walking off the track; a code 2 is incapable of walking, but is completely conscious; and a code 3 is completely unconscious, and requires a fair bit of work.” Members of the medical team are under strict instruction to stay fixed in their allocated positions on the circuit. They must be on constant standby, ready to respond at all times.

“The students are hyper-vigilant in keeping tabs on each other,” said Dr Perry. “They are even calling out the ‘unofficial’ code 10 – traditionally used when a volunteer on the team needs to leave their post to go to the toilet.”

This is absolute proof that the Phillip Island medical team has all bases on the circuit completely covered.


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