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Paramedic students provided with unique learning experiences during global pandemic

Published:02 September 2020

Paramedic Science student Nathan Burke has completed his final weeks of placement during a global pandemic

When he decided to become a paramedic, working during a global pandemic was the furthest thing from his mind.

Fast forward a few years and now future paramedic Nathan Burke is experiencing first-hand what it’s like to work amidst the COVID-19 health crisis - while on placement with the Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS).

“It’s been a really interesting learning experience being on the road for the last five weeks, in the middle of a global pandemic,” Mr Burke explained.

“We’ve had to brush up on the use and requirements of personal protective equipment (PPE) which is something would rarely expect to have to put into practice,” he said.

“As soon as we’re responding to a respiratory case, we have to put all the PPE on and as a student, my mentors have of course made me the primary carer in those situations so I’m the one who has to get kitted up,” he laughed.

“They’re definitely ensuring I’m gaining maximum experience which has been really good.”

Townsville-based Mr Burke is completing the final unit of CQUniversity’s Bachelor of Paramedic Science degree and is about to do his last shift of a five-week placement with QAS – and he’s not alone. 

As the state’s largest educational provider of paramedic students outside of the South East corner, CQU currently has hundreds of Paramedic Science students working in ambulances across Queensland.

Unit coordinator for clinical paramedic practice and paramedic science lecturer, Rosie McEachern said the CQU students were being provided with a unique experience that many others are not.

“It’s important to note that Queensland is currently the only State or Territory in Australia hosting clinical placements during the pandemic,” Ms McEachern explained.

“This necessary industry exposure will ensure our students remain on-track for graduation and ultimately available for future health industry employment demands.”

With a newfound wealth of experience under his belt, Mr Burke said he was now looking forward to graduating in the hope to land himself a full-time position with the QAS.

“I’m originally from Coffs Harbour in NSW and moved to Townsville to study medicine at JCU but one thing led to another and I ended up choosing to study paramedics with CQU,” Mr Burke explained.

“I have come to love Townsville and have really enjoyed being out on the road with the Kirwan station team, so when NSW recruitment opened recently, I chose not to apply to that because I would love a job with the QAS.”

And if that doesn’t work out, Mr Burke has a plan.

“Watching some of my lecturers and being part of the classes has made me think of looking into getting involved in the teaching side of paramedics. I’ll always want to be on-the-road but having that option where I could educate our future paramedics would be amazing. It’s certainly a long-term goal.”