Words by Ekaterina (Kat) Puzanova
If you were to ask most paramedicine students to describe the work of a paramedic, the answer would often be flashing red and blue lights, sirens, speeding through traffic, and saving lives. Also to add to the experience, geriatric falls, night shifts, ramping and that overwhelming sensation of fatigue. To generalise like this in some ways is unfair, as no singular paramedic experience is like another’s, but neither is the experience of a paramedic working in the private sector.
During our studentship, the vision that keeps many of us going is the idea that we would one day be standing by an ambulance in a crisp new paramedic uniform. But this one dimensional fixation on the ambulance aspects of paramedicine shelters us from the opportunities that present to paramedic graduates. The private paramedic sector is an opportunity often overlooked, unknown and misunderstood. Private sector paramedics currently make up 19.1% of all paramedics in Australia1. Private sector paramedics are already utilised to fill gaps during increased demand of medical and health services and in fact, between 2008 and 2015, the demand for paramedics rose by 29.2%2. As recently as 2022 when parts of South East Queensland and New South Wales experienced dramatic flooding, private sector paramedics were called in to provide additional support, wound care, tetanus shots, health checks and to provide general reassurance to the affected communities3.
Further to this, private paramedics are also often employed to supervise and cover major events. This mitigates ambulances being used for non-emergency reasons, and provides an almost immediate professional clinical care when and where it is required. Recently an attendee of a major event in Brisbane went into cardiac arrest and within minutes, two private paramedics attended and provided resuscitation care prior to ambulance arrival4. Similarly, an incident occurred during an NRL game in which private paramedics provided emergency care to a player that had suffered a life-threatening laryngeal injury, which ultimately culminated in lifesaving interventions being applied5.
In Australia 82% of paramedics work in metropolitan settings, regional centres, or large rural towns and typically in pairs1. In contrast, private paramedics often work by themselves in a variety of challenging and unusual environments. Some notable private paramedic classifications that work independently and autonomously include; industrial paramedics, rig medics, mine paramedics, maritime medics, filmset medics, offshore medics, and event paramedics6.
Each with its unique environment to work in, the experience of a private paramedic is varied. Working solo means that paramedic must keep up to date with literature and the skills relevant to their niche area. Particularly when they are not able to access DTPs, CPGs and medical consults. Private paramedics are often subjected to further training in their specialised fields in order to maintain high focus on patient safety. A gap in paramedic student education identified by Williams et al.,7 is interprofessional practice; the reason being that most universities take an isolative, uni-professional, ambulance-centric approach to their education. This results in paramedic graduates being less willing to engage in other roles, or with other healthcare professionals in interprofessional learning. This can cause misunderstanding of systems and processes, and also underestimating the roles of paramedics and other health care professionals in these roles8. Since identification of this gap universities have started to address it by adjusting the paramedic curriculum to include more interprofessional learnings9.
Private medics side by side with QAS paramedics after being reunited with their patient. (Supplied: 1300Medics)https://www.facebook.com/1300MEDICS/photos/pcb.4593741467312128/4593740757312199
Paramedicine students often begin their paramedicine journey by dreaming of working within a jurisdictional-based paramedic service. But there are so many other opportunities and options within the expanding field of private sector paramedicine to be considered. These shouldn’t be viewed as competing fields, but as ones that can work together for the broader benefit of society. Jurisdictional-based paramedics play a role in emergency work and patient transport, while private sector paramedics can be there at events, attending to disaster relief or servicing industries where paramedics are required.
1. Australian Government Department of Health.Factsheet, Allied Health 2019 [Internet]. Hwd.health.gov.au. 2019 [cited 20March 2022]. Available from: https://hwd.health.gov.au/resources/publications/factsheet-alld-2019.html
2. Andrew E, Nehme Z, Cameron P, Smith K. Driversof Increasing Emergency Ambulance Demand. Prehospital Emergency Care.2020;24(3):385-93.
3. Chenery, S. Where the Richmond and Wilson riversmeet is Coraki, and people there have lost everything. The Guardian: AustralianNews. 2022 Mar 12. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2022/mar/12/where-the-richmond-and-wilson-rivers-meet-is-coraki-and-people-there-have-lost-everything
4. Akers, T. Trainer Gary Duncan hopes to return tothe races at Doomben since his heart attack. The Chronicle: Sports. 2021 Aug26. Available from: https://www.thechronicle.com.au/sport/superracing/trainer-gary-duncan-hopes-to-return-to-the-races-at-doomben-since-his-heart-attack/news-story/c37322b7822a5f4dca2d8e06768ab673?fbclid=IwAR0DEjdBcfoptE15GmyJP7ziaKFGQTvG5rkxfQ24dyGRe8T94FLZfQSKQ8Q
5. Otto, T. NRL star Andrew Fifita rushed tohospital in ambulance. News: Sport. 2021 Aug 16. Available from: https://www.news.com.au/sport/nrl/nrl-star-andrew-fifita-rushed-to-hospital-in-ambulance/news-story/60bf204824759216471bcfc339555da6?amp
7. Williams B, Brown T, Scholes R, French J, ArcherF. Can Interdisciplinary Clinical DVD Simulations Transform Clinical FieldworkEducation for Paramedic, Occupational Therapy, Physiotherapy, and Nursing Students? Journal of allied health. 2010;39(1):3-10.
8. Williams B, Boyle M, Brightwell R, McCall M,McMullen P, Munro G, et al. A cross-sectional study of paramedics' readinessfor interprofessional learning and cooperation: Results from five universities. Nurse Education Today. 2013;33(11):1369-75.
9. Walker L, Cross M, Barnett T. Mapping theinterprofessional education landscape for students on rural clinicalplacements: an integrative literature review. Rural Remote Health. 2018;18(2):4336.
10. Landman AB, Spatz ES, Cherlin EJ, Krumholz HM,Bradley EH, Curry LA. Hospital Collaboration With Emergency Medical Services inthe Care of Patients With Acute Myocardial Infarction: Perspectives From Key Hospital Staff. Annals of Emergency Medicine. 2013;61(2):18