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From the operating theatre to the flight deck: video

Making the transition from nurse to commercial pilot might seem an unusual career trajectory, but that’s the path Geoff Hay took after training as a nurse at Sydney’s Royal North Shore Hospital in the 1980s and working in operating theatres and ICU. He has now clocked up over 30 years as an international airline pilot (including 19 as a training captain).

His fascination with human behaviour and learning and teaching led him to write a book – Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your surgeon speaking: Exploring the human factor in aviation and surgery – where he draws a number of parallels between the surgical operating theatre and aviation, while offering insights that both parties can learn from.

Hay says his nursing training and experience held him in good stead once he made the transition to flying.

“Nurses are very good at looking at the big picture,” he says as an example.

“And that’s something that really helps in anything you do, particularly in aviation.”

Another key area in nursing with application in aviation is a focus on people, and developing “open and honest communication” skills.

“It’s not just about flying, it’s not just about technology … there’s people involved as well,” he says.

Hay joined Nursing Review for a discussion about the ways in which the ‘human factors’ in pilot training (such as teamwork, leadership, communication, decision-making and how people perform under stress) also apply in the nursing environment, and what the professions can learn from each other.

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