Saturday, June 15, 2024

‘I’m an Aussie nurse who travels first class weekly. Here’s how I do it.’

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Imagine travelling the globe so often you lose track of time zones. Imagine doing it either in first class or business class, without giving it a second thought. Now imagine getting paid for it. 

That’s the reality for Millie May, who’s travelled to more than 12 countries as part of her role as a repatriation nurse. What is a repatriation nurse? She’s glad you asked. In fact, Millie’s been sharing a few snippets of her incredible role on TikTok, and the reaction has been intense. 

Watch: The ultimate travel hack. Story continues after the video.

“I knew it was a rare job,” she says. “But when I started posting my job to TikTok I was so shocked at the amount of interest in it. People have no idea this kind of work even exists, so being able to give a glimpse behind the scenes is amazing. Every time I explain to someone what I do, their response is ‘I want to do that job’.”

A repatriation nurse is a critical care nurse that travels the world to bring sick or injured patients back to their home country either on commercial or private flights. 

Millie May travels the world as a repatriation nurse. Image: Supplied. 

“I like to think of a repatriation nurse as the middleman between a complete medical transfer, like RFDS or medical evacuations, and independent travel. We are just that little bit of assistance that people need to get them home without a medivac.”

While Millie can’t disclose who employs her, repatriation nurses can be hired by anyone from private transfers, insurance companies, or private companies. 

“Our patients can completely vary from toddlers to the elderly community. In saying that, our patients can vary from critical injuries to a simple transfer only needing mobility assistance, so I’ve really had everything from strokes to broken ankles.

“It has been the most eye-opening experience to realise how common it is to get sick overseas and how important it is to have travel insurance and read the fine print.”

According to VisaGuide.World, one of the most important parts of preparing for a trip abroad is purchasing travel insurance. Travel insurance can save you from unnecessary and unexpected financial loss if you have to cancel the trip or from a hefty medical bill that you cannot afford.

There are two types of repatriations – those that fly business class and those that involve a stretcher at the back of economy, spanning eight or 12 seats. 

Millie says it’s difficult to describe a typical day, but most are spent at airports, travelling and lots of people watching.  

“I am an absolute pro at using Google Translate and my charades skills have become impeccable. If you could win an Olympic medal for charades, I would definitely win it.  

“I also research where I am travelling to and cram as much possible into the hours that I have free in the country.”

That can range anywhere between 24 and 40 hours. 

“I’ve lost track of what time zone I even live in because I’ve travelled so much for work. In the last year travel has really well and truly picked up and with that has come a massive increase in repatriation work, so some weeks I can go out twice in one week. It’s hit and miss and really depends.”

For Millie, the novelty of flying first class hasn’t worn off and you’ll often find her taking videos and selfies of her adventures. 

@itsmilliemay 2024 LESS GOOOOO!!! 🤍 #repatriation #fashion #bigmoves ♬ original sound – Millie🤎Worldwide Travel Nurse

“Flying first class, and even business class, is something that definitely wasn’t a part of my normal life, as I’m sure many people can relate. Sometimes I feel like people are looking at me, thinking, ‘who and what does this girl do to be able to fly business class?’. I truly just fake it till I make it and I live in a delulu land that I’m like a famous celebrity.”

While it sounds luxurious, Millie says her employer insists they fly business class to manage fatigue. 

“Being at the top of your game when transferring a patient home is extremely important for patient care and that is our number one priority.”

As part of her role, Millie has been to New York, London, Germany, Japan, Fiji and Greece, to name a few countries, but the true magic of the job, she says, is walking into a patient’s hospital room overseas where they’ve often been stuck unwell for weeks, missing their family. 

“Seeing the look on their face when they see you, you are truly like heaven for them.”

But it’s not all first class travels and movie-style rescues. There are some challenges too. 

“I would say the constant toll on your body, as time goes on you definitely start to feel the physical fatigue. Along with this the language barriers are up there with some of the most challenging parts. 

“And I would say, as someone who has a massive heart, some cases do just get to you and remind you how precious life is.”

But the good parts far outweigh the challenges, and Millie says she’s met some incredible people on her journeys. 

“Whether it be patients and the stories of their lives, other people I’ve met on flights or just generally throughout the world, travel truly makes you grow so much as a person. 

“I have a handcrafted jewellery business called Kaarme Jewels and travelling inspires every single piece I craft. The constant inspiration and experiences are priceless. 

“It’s not always champagne, caviar and business class, sometimes the transfers are hard, challenging and long, but honestly I don’t think any other job compares.”

Feature image: Instagram/@itsmilieemayy.

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