In the first of a series of interviews with members of our crew, we get to know Dr Laura Bland, who has been with Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance for nearly five years.

Laura Bland demo CPR

What is your role with DSAA?

I started as a critical care doctor with DSAA in September 2018, having completed my training in emergency medicine in Poole Hospital and completing sub-speciality training in pre-hospital emergency medicine (PHEM) with the Emergency Medicine, Retrieval & Transfer Service (EMRTS) in Wales. When I am not working for DSAA, I am an emergency physician at Musgrove Park Hospital in Taunton.

What made you want to work on the air ambulance?

I have always wanted to be a pre-hospital clinician. Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance provides the best possible opportunity to deliver cutting edge emergency care to patients.

What do you enjoy the most about working with DSAA?

Being part of a team that shares a common goal; to deliver the highest level of medical care possible outside of hospital to the most seriously ill or injured people of Dorset and Somerset. Doing that is so immensely rewarding. The innovation and development of this service never sits still. It is an incredible journey to be on!

What are the toughest challenges you’ve had at work?

Living and working in Somerset, we often see and treat our friends and relatives. But I take great pride in knowing that no matter what, the team has delivered exceptional care to patients and their families.

Obviously you get tasked to some very poorly patients, how do you cope with that?

Knowing that we are the best placed to help patients in their time of need allows us to put the potential distress behind us. We train hard for these experiences; we have the knowledge, the equipment and a strong governance structure to ensure we are supported to do the best we can do. We are also incredibly lucky to have access to an external psychologist should we need to speak to someone. This is all provided by the charity.

What does it feel like when you meet a patient, knowing that you have helped to save their life?

There is no better feeling in the world than speaking with someone who, without your input, would no longer be here. It’s unlike any other success I’ve experienced in life.

You are also the pre-hospital emergency medical training lead for DSAA, what does that involve?

Having completed PHEM sub speciality training myself, I was keen to develop this within DSAA. With support of our medical lead, Dr Phil Hyde, (who is now the Chair of the Intercollegiate Board for Training in PHEM), we developed our PHEM training programme. We opened to trainees in August 2021 and are celebrating the success of our latest PHEM trainee, Dr Tony Hanks, as he finishes his year with us next month. Tony recently undertook the Fellowship in Immediate Medical Care (FIMC) exam – the highest qualification available in pre-hospital medicine.

And you are the Convener of Pre- Hospital Exams for the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh. Gosh you are a busy lady!

Yes, I know. I was selected for the role in September 2022 and spent 12 months as deputy before becoming convener in 2023. The role involves setting two full exams, the Diploma and the Fellowship of Immediate Medical Care. Each exam is a three-hour written paper and a 12 or 14-station practical examination. The exams run for two weeks a year, in January and June/July, where we see around 200 candidates who come from around the world. I also sit on the Intercollegiate Board as Chair of their Assessments Committee and report back to the Royal College of Surgeons several times a year.

What is your motivation for undertaking these additional roles?

These voluntary roles are a lot of work but hugely satisfying. They keep my knowledge up to date and make sure I am always at the top of my game. Being in this leadership role has developed my skills and allowed me to build on the incredible work of those who developed PHEM, to ensure we can deliver the best care to our patients. 

And what’s the best advice you can give to someone who has just started their clinical career?

Do what you love. The adage that if you do what you love, you never work a day in your life is good, but not quite true. You have to work incredibly hard to do the job you love, but never doubt that it is worth it!

Dr Laura Bland flying in helicopter

When you’re not at work (which sounds like not often)… how do you like to spend your spare time?

Well, my two gorgeous German Shepherd dogs, Juno and Ruby, certainly keep me busy. I can usually be found trying, and failing, to train them, or working on the renovation of our home in the Blackdown Hills AONB.

What was the last book you read?

Peak Performance by Stephen Hearns.

The first music concert you attended?

Glastonbury 1999. REM were headlining.

The next place on your travel bucket list?

We were in Sri Lanka at the start of the pandemic and needed to come home, cutting our trip short. It was an incredible country and we will definitely be going back again.

Now this one’s a favourite…who would you want to be stuck in a lift with?

Ada Lovelace, Marie Curie, Amelia Earhart and Jane Austen to name a few! But, if I must pick one, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who said: “Whatever you choose to do, leave tracks. You will want to leave the world a little better for your having lived.” Wise words.

Meet the DSAA Crew