Recently we sat down with career paramedic Peter Franklin whose career has seen him working in numerous countries throughout Europe, Canada, USA, the Middle East, and South East Asia. He has worked in varying roles including paramedic, combat medic and flight paramedic. We chatted to him about some of the more challenging roles he has worked in including setting up an ambulance service in the middle east.
Q. Hi Pete, you have had a rather interesting career to date. Let’s start with where are you currently working and in what role?
A. Currently I am working at Aspen Medical in a newly developed role as Health Solutions Manager. Essentially, I seek to find innovative ways to improve patient outcomes and make them viable. I am still credentialed as an ICP Flight Paramedic so occasionally I get to do clinical work but nowhere near as much as I would like anymore. That said I am also fortunate to have been appointed as the the Director of Clinical Governance for SOTER international and I was recently appointed as the Aeromedical Lead Tutor for the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh for their Dimploma Remote & Offshore Medicine program.
Q. Ok, how long have you been doing all this and why?
A. Ummmmm.......now that question makes me feel old :-) since 1995. My sister had a pub back in UK. One night a guy collapsed and went in to a grand mal fit, status epilepticus. Having just left the Army, my first aid training was still fresh, so I stepped in. I felt 10 feet tall and thought "you know what...I could do this for a living". Based off that experience I applied to nearly all of the then 30 odd ambulance services in the UK and got a 'no thankyou' from all of them. So, me being me and not taking no for an answer, re-joined the military as a medic and the rest is history really.
Q. Pete we heard about a project in the middle east you were a part of. Can you explain how a paramedic from the UK and Australia ends up in the middle east?
A. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity, literally. The United Arab Emirates used to have a small service in Abu Dhabi and one in Dubai. But there are different states or emirates as well. The rest of the country relied on Civil Defence to rock up in a yellow transit van and pop you in the back with little more than first aid and try to get you to hospital.
The UAE Royal family wanted a full turnkey western standard ambulance service. I was fortunate to be part of a four person team brought in and we were given six months to build a service from the ground up. We hired 200+ EMT's from Jordan and Philippines, bought a fleet of Mercedes Sprinters, put Lucas 3’s on each truck, and built an education program. I was one of very few driving instructors so I also had the privilege of putting all 200+ EMTs through an emergency driving program.....hence the grey hair and salt and pepper beard.
Literally a once in a lifetime experience that I loved and still have many friends from that time.
Q. What were some of the challenges you faced that were associated with being a paramedic in a foreign land?
A. Ha ha ha.......given the melting pot of cultures, religion, perspective, plenty but you take the rough with the smooth. You cannot rely on your own biased perspective. You need to be flexible to the environment you are living in but also true to your values. One that stands out though was when we had a female EMT arrested and jailed on the day the service went live. She was responding to a call when she was T-boned by another driver. Unfortunately for us the local lady (who was to blame) was given preferential treatment and it took our team all day to secure her release. Poor thing – but we are still friends today.
Q. Sounds fun but we are always curious to know what is next?
A. Great question, I never stand still, I get easily bored and hate being behind a desk. I want to go back overseas and become more involved in NGO work like my previous work in Nepal which you kindly published an article on earlier in the year.
Q. You are obviously still involved in paramedic care, what keeps you motivated to do keep doing what you do?
A. Honestly, without sounding cheesy, I want to improve patient outcomes and my experiences are well placed to assist. When I started in paramedic care degrees weren't a thing. Fast forward a few decades and we have Consultant Paramedics and PhD Paramedics. I even finished a MSc in Specialist Practice study. These things never existed back then and I feel that we need to utilise these for our ourselves and importantly our patients. That is what drives me. That said paramedic care is varied across Australia, and I would love to see everyone in Australia receive the same level of care regardless of where they live.
Q. Paramedic burn out is high on the media agenda right now, with all that you have done, how have you balanced your work, study and life?
A. I am not sure that I used to when I was younger. I was go go go. Unfortunately across my career I have lost seventeen mates to mental health issues and suicide and I reckon I have been on the edge a few times myself. But my family kept me going and maintained my resilience. For me it is about staying happy and healthy and plenty of fitness.
Q. Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
A. Hopefully at home being selective about where and when to work on projects that I find genuinely interesting. No matter if they are here, Antarctica, on the ocean or in the air, as long as I am doing clinical stuff that makes me happy.
Q. If you could have dinner with two people, who would they be and why?
A. I would love to see Mum & Dad one last time but miracles don't happen so I guess I would have to say Winston Churchill - what a weight to have on your shoulders. What an amazing leader. The other would be a toss up between JFK or Ghandi. They are both inspirational people from vastly different backgrounds (both with faults) but both passionate for making people's lives and the world better.
Q. What would you say to someone who is considering a career in paramedicine?
A. Do it, just do it and do not look back. But also do not get stuck in the same ambulance. Get out and take your skills into the world. Finish your studies and use your qualifications to experience everything the world has to offer.
Q. Any parting piece advice?
A. Yes mate, have no regrets. Do not get to the other end of life and regret doing or not doing something. You learn more by failure, so you should never be afraid to fail. Likewise, stand your ground, know your worth and do not be afraid to walk away if people do not give you respect or credit. Just be authentic, be yourself.
Awesome thanks for your time Pete! You can read about his experience in his article Shifting Sands – EMS in the Desert