A former air force and flying doctor nurse is bringing her experience to the Hawke's Bay District Health Board.

Jackie Hardy's extensive nursing career has taken her across the world, to the centre of conflicts, terrorist attacks and deadly tsunamis.

Now, she has been hired as the new clinical nurse manager of flight and transport at HBDHB, one of the largest flight teams in the New Zealand.

Hardy started her career in Australia, training to become registered nurse at the Royal Brisbane Hospital, before doing her psychiatric nursing at Baillie Henderson Hospital in Toowoomba and midwifery at the Gold Coast Hospital.


She then joined the Royal Australian Air Force, her first foray into flight nursing.

She was deployed to conflicts in East Timor and Rwanda, assisted in the aftermath of the Bali bombing and the Boxing Day tsunami in Sumatra.

In Rwanda, she was part of a team providing medical support to the United Nations after the genocide and during the Kibeho massacre.

Hardy said, despite carrying weapons, they were not allowed anywhere without two male armed escorts.

"We were there to support the UN but we ended up treating a lot of the local children.

"You had to think laterally, for example, we were equipped to deal with adults so a small suction catheter for an adult could be used as naso gastric tube for a baby."

She described the situations in East Timor, Bali and Sumatra as being equally as challenging, saying it was a sense of purpose which kept her going.

"You accept that you're not going to make a huge difference but you might make a difference to one or two lives that might not have been saved.


"That's what it's all about."

Hardy also ran the air force aeromedical training school for three years in both fixed and rotary aircraft, before joining the Royal Flying Doctors Service, based in Bundaberg, north of Brisbane.

"It was a busy little base, not dissimilar to here.

"Working as a sole operator, you're up in the air with a pilot so if anything goes wrong you've got to rely on your own skills to deal with the situation."

It is that wealth of experience that the Hawke's Bay team of about 20 flight nurses will be able to draw on.

"I know what they're experiencing and I know the idiosyncrasies of flight.

"I've had some interesting flights including watching a pilot duck under the cockpit during a bat strike on final descent."

She said it is an unpredictable job, where you have to be prepared for anything.

"It helps to be resilient and believe in Murphy's Law."

The HBDHB flight team transferred more than 1500 patients in the 12 months to September 2019, an average of 138 patients per month.