Flying home today and I still keep thinking about the intercom call for a doctor that happened on our flight down. It seems like such a strange policy. And for sure it is some type of policy because airlines have procedures for everything. I decided I wanted to look at the numbers:
Cooling My Feminist Jets
So, I had been very happy/surprised that it was a female doctor answering the call. Turns out, not that rare. There is probably still a wage gap, and possibly still a 'senior position' gap, but the gender gap for Canadian doctors has shrunk considerably. 41% are female; 59% are male. Two thirds (64%) of family physicians under age 35 are female.
What About Specialists
Almost half of the over 83,000 Canadian doctors are specialists of other disciples, instead of Family Medicine. Students in medical school in Canada will experience many fields of medicine and decide on their specialty during 3rd or 4th year. After that choice, residency training can be anywhere from 2 years (Family Medicine) to 6 years (Neurosurgery). Most specialties are a 5 year program. So they have the medical base, but a specialist can really be pretty specialized, and there are 37 specialties available in Canada. Would a urologist be that much help to someone who fainted in a plane?
Seems Like A Long Shot
Based on the total population of Canada there is only about 1 doctor for every 500 people. The plane we were in seats 100. That is a 0.2% chance there would be a doctor on board. When looking at people who fly, mainly those who can afford to fly, than doctors would be more likely to be on board a plane while the general population less so - this increases the chance. Often planes would be larger than the jet we were one, increasing the passengers to maybe 200. Huge planes can have more than 600 seats (in a two-tiered class configuration. Actually 800 in single-class, but I have never seen that.) I still don't like the odds, or many I don't like the fact that they are relying on odds.
Improve Your Odds
If they had asked "Is there a doctor or nurse on board" that would really improve the chances of a generally trained health care professional. There are lots of different types of nurses, including those in advance nursing practice, like nurse practitioners and clinical nurse specialists. There are 4 times as many nurses as doctors in Canada.
Look at me citing things like a good girl who went to university and grad school!
- Canadian Institute For Health Information
- The Canadian Medical Association
- University of British Columbia Medical School
- AirBus Corporate Site, Aviation Blogs
I am like my own Wikipedia article here. If you found this as fascinating as me, the likelihood of that might be small, then these are some interesting international articles on the same topic:
- July 2017 - ABC News (Australia) - Is there a doctor on board? What happens during a mid-air medical emergency
- March 2017 - The Telegraph (UK) - What really happens during a medical emergency at 35,000 feet
- January 2017 - Singapore Medical Journal - What to do during inflight medical emergencies? Practice pointers from a medical ethicist and an aviation medicine specialist
- April 2013 - Quartz (USA) - What it’s like to be the “doctor on board”, and why airlines shouldn’t be relying on them