Nineteen paramedicine students in the Charles Sturt School of Nursing, Paramedicine and Healthcare Sciences completed workplace learning requirements in late 2022 with Acadian Ambulance Service.
They worked with experienced local crews of Critical Care Paramedics and Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) at four locations ─ Austin and San Antonio in Texas, and New Orleans and Houma in Louisiana.
The US work placement students are undergraduate second- or third-year students enrolled in the Bachelor of Paramedicine at Charles Sturt in Port Macquarie and Bathurst, and others are studying the Graduate Diploma of Clinical Practice (Paramedicine) online, which is the Nurse-to-Paramedic transition course offered at Charles Sturt.
Ms Hannah Stack, Lecturer in Paramedicine in the School of Nursing, Paramedicine and Healthcare Sciences in Port Macquarie, said most of the students regularly experienced a variety of patient presentations not ordinarily attended by paramedics in Australia.
“The students had an exceptional experience with the host provider Acadian Ambulance Service, which co-organised the work placements with the University’s paramedicine academics,” Ms Stack said.
“In addition to the many learning experiences for students to practice skills and improve their clinical knowledge, they also enjoyed experiencing local cultures.
“For example, the students regularly attending to patients of Spanish-speaking backgrounds, which allowed students to improve their confidence with alternative communication methods and even learn a bit of Spanish themselves.”
Second-year Port Macquarie paramedic student Ms Caitlyn Radmore (pictured at right of picture left) said she was fortunate to experience this ‘trip of a lifetime’ to work with five peers in San Antonio, Texas, the seventh largest city in the United States.
“If fellow students have the chance, I cannot recommend a Charles Sturt Global work placement trip enough,” Caitlyn said.
“Not only did it give me the opportunity to experience a part of the United States I have never been to before, it opened my eyes to a completely new emergency response service.
“I was able to reflect upon the ways that Australian paramedicine varies from that of the US, and also how I can incorporate new methods and ideas of patient care to further develop my own clinical reasoning and practice.”
Caitlyn said the US experience allowed the paramedicine students who went to Texas and Louisiana to observe and perform a greater scope of practice and to form both professional and personal connections which opened doors to future employment and overseas travel.
“The relationships I have built and developed with my student peers who also participated are ones I strongly believe will last a lifetime,” Caitlyn said.
“This Charles Sturt Global trip and placement overseas is something I will cherish the most from my time at university, and to anyone who might be considering going, my advice would be just go for it! You won’t regret it.”
Ms Stack said Port Macquarie paramedicine lecturer and course director Mr Lyle Brewster initiated the relationship with Acadian Ambulance Service.
Fellow paramedicine lecturer Mr Robert Bear in his role as Work Place Learning Industry Liaison (Paramedicine) then developed, managed and planned the trip with the assistance of Charles Sturt Global which continued to provide support and assistance during the trip.
The Academic Leaders for the four-week US work placement trip were Ms Stack and fellow paramedicine lecturer Mr Jacob Grevell.
“After the 19 student paramedics completed their three-week workplace learning requirements with Acadian Ambulance Service, some students chose to extend their travels and explore other parts of the US or Central America,” Ms Stack said.
“Eight students are in the process of having offers of employment arranged by Acadian Ambulance Service for when they graduate.
“One student, who plans to work with Acadian Ambulance Service once they graduate, recognised that learning Spanish would be highly beneficial when they work in Texas as a paramedic in the future and attended a Spanish language school in Central America.”
Mr Grevell (pictured left) said Acadian Ambulance Service also arranged for the Charles Sturt students to attend the National Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Conference and be a part of the medical response team at major sporting events, such as the New Orleans National Football League (NFL) which approximately 65,000 people attended.
“Other extra-curricular activities included attendance at the 2022 Texas EMS conference, a National Basketball Association (NBA) game, an ice hockey game, air boat swamp tours in New Orleans, and providing medical cover at a National Football League (NFL) game,” he said.
“Other fun experiences that students did on their days off included hiking in national parks and walking tours in cities, and the Texan BBQ and Cajun cuisine in Louisiana were also very popular with students.
“A few of the Paramedic Mentors the students were paired with were also Australian paramedicine graduates, and it was great to hear about their experiences moving to the US and working as a paramedic.
“It inspired a few students to seek more information about working with Acadian Ambulance Service after graduating.”
The academics said most of the students regularly experienced a variety of patient presentations not typically or frequently attended by paramedics in Australia.
“Hearing the stories from the students during debriefing sessions highlighted how valuable the whole learning experience was for them,” Mr Grevell said.
“The students who attended the Texas EMS conference in Austin enjoyed an excellent opportunity to see the latest advancements in pre-hospital medicine and new innovative technology.
“For example, students practised advanced airway management on manikins with video laryngoscopy, tested out virtual reality (VR) simulations, and watched medical drones carry medical equipment and defibrillators.”
Ms Stack said paramedicine student work placement experiences such as the Arcadian Ambulance Service placement in the USA sets the Charles Sturt paramedicine course apart from those of other universities.
“Charles Sturt University is the first Australian university to complete workplace learning with Acadian Ambulance Service and have it contribute to the students’ placement hours, with the students completing approximately 14 shifts over three weeks,” she said.
“Students working in a different ambulance organisation were exposed to other protocols and guidelines that paramedics could work from, which students may not experience when completing workplace learning in Australia.
“This meant students saw a broader range of skills and medications; for example, paramedics with Acadian Ambulance Service carry blood products and ventilators in their ambulance, and they also have a larger scope of practice for advanced airway management.
“This experience allowed students to grow professionally within the field of paramedicine and network with potential international employers. It has also improved their communication skills, helped them to better understand other cultures, and gives them a competitive edge in their job applications and their resumés.”
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