Thrown out of helicopter. Strapped in a flooding car. It sounds like a Hollywood movie but is the very real series of challenges faced by Blacktown Hospital’s Dr Jana Pittman on season two of SAS Australia.
From athletics to medicine to parenthood, Jana is no stranger to a challenge – but she admits SAS Australia is one of the hardest things she’s ever done.
“It is as close to SAS training as you can do and it’s quite extraordinary to see what some of these guys would put themselves through to gain selection. It was mind boggling,” she said.
“They gassed us at one point and you feel like you’re dying, and then the next minute you’re being thrown out of a helicopter and then the next minute climbing through mud; it was just never ending. It was relentless.”
SAS chief instructor Ant Middleton described Pittman as a “lioness”, telling her: “Whatever fire you’ve ignited within you, if you keep that, you will be here at the end of the course.”
Jana had given birth to her fourth child just six months before filming and took on the challenge at the end of her maternity leave.
She even returned to Blacktown Hospital’s obstetrics and gynaecology department just three days after finishing filming!
“Anyone who has kids understand that’s not an easy feat to get back fitness, let alone no sleep, so most of it was just mental toughness, just trying to battle through the challenges and then not give up,” Jana said.
“I came back to work really skinny with a big black eye and all these bruises down my arms, and I particularly remember this one patient looking at me and going: ‘Are you okay?’ I said I had just done a sports course on the weekend but I’m not so sure she believed me!”
Jana has also worked in Blacktown’s emergency department and said that role helped prepared her for the gruelling SAS course.
“It’s a go, go, go kind of intensity and I have had the privilege of looking after very acutely sick patients,” she said.
It is a privilege and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be working on frontline through a pandemic and trying to ease patients’ fears. Hopefully what we learn from this will be huge in terms of being better doctors.
“I feel very protected by the way our hospitals are managing this pandemic, which is great. I have never had a day where I haven’t felt safe.
“The whole team at Blacktown are literally amazing. They’re wonderful teachers, incredibly supportive, and very flexible.”
Jana said Blacktown Hospital has supported her to remain part-time this year while she balances home-schooling with work on the front line.
Her long-term plan is to remain in obstetrics and gynaecology at Blacktown Hospital but she’s also signed up for a medical role in the Army Reserves “to fill the adrenaline void”.
“It’s my second year at Blacktown but I also did all my medical school training there so I feel like an old hand. It’s been a good to be able to watch it evolve and grow into this new, amazing hospital.
“I love working at Blacktown Hospital. I’ve had incredible support from the workforce and I also feel very protected by the doctors. They all know me, they don’t care who you are on television, they just really treat you as one of the family and I’ve found that a really beautiful thing.”
Don’t miss Dr Jana Pittman in action next month when season two of SAS Australia airs on Channel 7.