A student paramedics experience

Sinead Leaf tells us about her experience studying an Emergency Health (Paramedic) degree in Australia.

As a third year paramedic student in Australia I have the best of both worlds: studying an ever-changing, exciting course, and being able to do it on the sunny beaches of Victoria.

When I was first faced with the decision of choosing a University course that would some day shape my life, it was daunting. So, I sat down with a table of ‘university guides’ and tried to make sense of it all. In the end I came up with four requirements I felt I needed in a course in order to keep me interested. It needed to involve biology - my favourite subject at the time, it had to be challenging, it couldn't be behind a desk and, most importantly, I wanted to help people. With this in mind I shortlisted a set of careers. Well, my shortlist consisted of two options: nursing or paramedics.

A student paramedics experience

“The university owns three ambulances of their own, so we can have experience working with the tools of the trade before we go on the road”

As a high school student in Victoria, you are admitted entry into university courses as a direct result of your ATAR (Australian Tertiary Admission Rank) score. This score is given to you during your year twelve at high school, based on your exams and assessments during the year, effectively working as a ranking system between students. My ATAR score was not what I expected and effectively ruled out paramedics as an option for me. However after a year of nursing, I reapplied and got into Monash University’s Bachelor of Emergency Health (Paramedic) course.

After the first week of lectures, I knew it was for me. We go through four days of classes a week, which generally involves lectures on the pathophysiology of conditions we will see on the job, how to be professional, how we fit in the health system, how to work within the laws, as well as hours of practical simulation where we can put our skills to practice. The university owns three ambulances of their own, so we can have experience working with the tools of the trade before we go on the road.

Another large component of our course is Clinical Placement. We spend approximately 500 hours on an actual ambulance with paramedics, attending real cases, over the course of the three years. This is a favorite among most students as we get to link the theory we learn at university to help the community. Doing this course has linked me to many other networks and as a result I have travelled Australia doing work with paramedic organisations.

However, it’s not all work. Being in Australia means we spend a lot of time outside university enjoying the beaches, inner city cafes and, like at all universities in Australia, visiting the campus pub.
After I finish university and gain employment with the state ambulance service, I plan to study with them to become an Intensive Care paramedic. There are many options once you have finished your bachelor degree in Emergency Health. I have many peers studying medicine or obtaining a PhD whilst working part time as a paramedic.

For anyone interested in this career, I cannot recommend it highly enough. As for doing it in Australia - would you prefer beaches, cafes, art or history? Because here you can have them all.

Sinead Leaf (2011)
Student Paramedics Australasia