Student opportunities

Ben and Danielle go Down Under

Final-year BSc (Hons) Paramedic Science students, Ben and Danielle, took the opportunity to pursue adventure during their seven-week elective module where they got to organise a placement of their choice.

How did you make the connection with Australia?

We’d been chosen to compete in an international competition known as SPIRES (Student Paramedic Rally of Emergency Simulation) where we battled it out against student paramedic teams from places such as Turkey, Canada and Australia. At the gala dinner we met Stephen Bartlett, a tutor from Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Brisbane, Australia. We took his contact details so when the option to arrange our own placement came up we contacted him and he put us in touch with his colleague, Scott. We asked about the possibility of going to Australia. And Scott said yes!

How did you manage financially?

A month abroad is expensive on a student budget but we were so determined to go we worked extra shifts and used some of our student loan to get everything booked in time. But you have to be pretty resourceful to be a paramedic so we also researched what help was available and applied for all the awards we could, including the Faculty’s international scholarship and one offered by HARS (the High Achievers Recognition Scheme). We filled in forms, gave presentations and attended interviews but it all paid off when we both got awarded grants that meant our hard work paid off and we got some of our money back.

We knew we still wouldn’t be able to stay in a hotel for a month though, especially as that would mean we’d have to eat out all the time so we arranged to stay at an Air B&B place so we could cook our own food and do our own washing the same as we do in the UK.

How did you spend your time away?

It was split between time spent at QUT going to classes and time spent on the road with the ambulance crews. There were two ambulance stations so we were split up for the placement part of the trip – but we still kept bumping into each other at the hospital!

Were there many differences between how paramedicine works in Australia compared to the UK?

A lot of things were the same but we did find some interesting differences between the experience in the UK and in Australia. Mental health is covered here in the UK but it was covered in a different way at QUT, which was particularly useful as a lot of their calls had mental health issues at their root cause. We saw a lot of the problems around the use of the herbal high ‘Spice’, which is also a growing problem in the UK.

There were other things which we just don’t have to do much of at all in the UK which are quite common in Australia, like airport transfers. Due to the geography of the country they tend to have fewer hospitals but they’re bigger and patients can be transferred by air. It was really interesting seeing the role from a different cultural perspective. People have a choice of going public or private which seems to relieve the pressure on the services. It gives you a bit more time to do paperwork in between jobs and all ambulances are ‘double paramedic’ crewed rather than one paramedic and one ambulance technician or healthcare assistant and this takes the pressure off too!

What do you think you achieved from your placement?

Danielle: I’m definitely more interested in mental health now and feel I understand it better. It’s actually helped to inspire my dissertation.

Ben: Australian paramedics are more clinically advanced. By observing the Queensland Ambulance service we got the opportunity to experience these advanced clinical skills. I managed to get a critical care shift and ended up experiencing two things I'd not seen on placement in the UK – anaphylaxis and respiratory arrest.

What did you do outside of QUT and your ambulance service shifts?

Danielle: We took advantage of the Australian lifestyle by going to the beach, which really was a surfers’ paradise. We also hired bikes and went to the zoo.

Ben: And we went kayaking. Dani even tried bodyboarding!

Have either of you been abroad for that long before and would you go again?

Danielle: I had but Ben hadn’t. I had to mother him for a bit!

Ben: We could understand them [the Australians] fine but they couldn’t always understand me! [Ben is from Yorkshire.] Dani had to translate for me! I loved it though and would definitely do it again.

Danielle: We’re hoping to go back in 2018 – we’ve made applications to work at the Commonwealth games on the Gold coast in Queensland and are just waiting to hear back!

Paramedic air transfer in Australia
Ben Burnley and Danielle Thornton kayaking in Australia
Ben Burnley and Danielle Thornton ambulance spotting on a beach trip
Ben Burnley and Danielle Thornton with ambulance
Ben Burnley and Danielle Thornton in Brisbane
Ben Burnley and Danielle Thornton outside QUT
Ben Burnley and Danielle Thornton at zoo in Australia
Ben Burnley and Danielle Thornton at beach