Words by Callum Shepherd
In early 2015, I had just started my final year of studies in Monash University’s Bachelor of Emergency Health and Paramedic Practice. Like many 3rd year students, this was a daunting time. I remember sitting in a lecture theatre where everyone was discussing their future career plans and like most people, I only had really considered jobs in Australia.
I had never considered leaving Melbourne for work, nor moving overseas, until one of our lecturers sent out an email saying that London Ambulance Service (LAS) NHS Trust was coming to Melbourne on a recruitment drive. This was the start of my journey into an unknown. I applied to LAS for a Paramedic position at 20 years old whilst in my final year of university. Now bearing in mind, I was living at home with my parents, I had never cooked my own meals (thanks Mum!), I had also never done my own washing (…thanks Mum!) and I had never worked as a paramedic before. So, I would like to thank my 20-year-old naivety (and my incredibly supportive parents) for letting me move to the other side of the earth to live in a foreign country and do a job I’d never done before. The good news is – I was successful at the assessment centre, and I am still here 6.5 years later!
The interview and assessment process for LAS was fairly straight forward and I was offered a job within the same week. I then started applying for my Health and Care Practitioners Council (HCPC) Paramedic registration, as this is the governing body for paramedicine within the United Kingdom. If anyone is looking to move to the UK, my advice with HCPC registration is to start the process early! You’ll need lots of information around your university courses and/or experience, including subject outlines, learning objectives, assignment summaries and more – so I’d recommend trying to collate these throughout your studies.
After an emotional goodbye to my friends and family, I hopped on a plane to London in February 2016 with a few of my mates from university. I was lucky enough that two of my best mates came to London with me and we all ended up working at the same station, so this made the move a lot easier. The first few days in London were a complete whirlwind – opening bank accounts, trying to read the London Underground Tube map, looking for rental properties in areas that I didn’t know, signing phone contracts, getting a GP, visiting Buckingham Palace – the list goes on and on!
I started my induction course with 19 other Australian graduates that had also decided to make the move to London. We spent 4 weeks in the classroom, learning the UK ambulance guidelines and undertaking different types of theoretical and practical assessments. I really enjoyed my induction period, as I started to build a support network, learn about the UK and forge some incredible friendships. After 4 weeks of induction, we were released into London, where we undertook 8 weeks of mentoring. Yes, you read that right – 8 weeks. The good news – this has been changed, and now all Newly Qualified Paramedics undertake 6 months of 1 to 1 mentoring with an experienced paramedic.
What is it like in LAS?
London Ambulance Service NHS Trust is one of the busiest ambulance services in the world. To put it into numbers, LAS answered 2.1 million emergency 999 calls and a further 2.1 million urgent/non-emergency 111 calls in 2021. One of my favourite aspects of LAS are the opportunities that exist – you don’t have to be a paramedic working on an ambulance. In my 6 years, I’ve worked across solo responding cars, the bicycle response unit, as a mentor on ambulances, within the ambulance control room as a clinical advisor and now as a Hazardous Area Response Team (HART) Paramedic Training Officer. There are other roles that exist in London for paramedics, including management roles, Advanced Paramedics in Critical Care and Urgent Care, the Mental Health Response Car, Tactical Response Unit (Police Jobs), Motorcycle Paramedics and the Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS).
Outside of LAS, Paramedics work in many different capacities here in the National Health Service and the United Kingdom. I have friends that work in hospitals and GP surgeries as Paramedic Practitioners (similar to Nurse Practitioners) and as Advanced Clinical Practitioners (ACPs) which are paramedics that have independent prescribing rights that work to a similar scope of practice as a specialty trainee doctor. Additionally, there are also lots of roles within tertiary education, telephone assessment services and community response teams.
What is it like working overseas?
I’ve been abroad for over 6 years now and I am still loving it. Due to the flexible nature of shift work, I have been able to travel around 50 countries prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Living away from home is challenging at times, but the life experience of trying something new is definitely worth it.
If you’re considering moving abroad – I can strongly recommend the UK. The UK is a great place to live and there is a high level of exposure to true paramedicine. Depending on the lifestyle that you want, there are many big cities (i.e. London, Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, Brighton) and many small coastal towns and villages. The various NHS ambulance services (along with the private sectors) are virtually always recruiting for paramedics, and if you look at the right time, you could even get relocation expenses to assist you in moving from Australia to the UK.
The UK is also right on the doorstep of Europe and North Africa, so the travel options are endless. If you search at the right time, you can get flights for as little as $15-20 AUD to lots of different countries in Europe. As paramedics are mainly shift workers, I normally work 4 days on and then try to travel in my 4 days off. The beaches of Spain, the Swiss alps, the Italian wineries, Croatia’s Mediterranean coast and the cheap Polish beers are all within a 3-hour flight of London. Additionally, many of my colleagues and friends enjoy travelling as well, so there is always a trip that I can tag along to if needed. For anyone considering moving overseas – I’d strongly recommend it! Australia will always be there and it’s only a short 24-hour flight away!