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Facilitating courses is Ken's passion

2 Dec 2021

Ken Iles has participated in rescues following natural disasters, been a stand-by paramedic for your favourite reality TV show, and facilitated CRANAplus courses for 14 years. But it’s the remote workforce’s ability to provide care to familiar community faces that impresses him most.

Ken vis­its Rick Mur­ray in Jan­u­ary 1990, a man he res­cued dur­ing the New­cas­tle earthquake.

Ken Iles, a res­cue and inten­sive care para­medic with the NSW Ambu­lance Ser­vice for 37 years, hap­pi­ly puts up his hand to say his work­ing life has been like a Boy’s Own Adven­ture – from attend­ing major dis­as­ters to being on stand­by first-aid duty for TV real­i­ty programmes.

But his major pas­sion is as a facil­i­ta­tor for CRANAplus.

A lot of the time it’s the heli­copter crew that gets the kudos for suc­cess­ful­ly sav­ing lives after acci­dents. But if it wasn’t for the hard work of the first respon­ders, the local health work­ers, there would not be any suc­cess­es,” says Ken.

I have enor­mous respect for rur­al and remote health work­ers. I can dis­as­so­ci­ate myself from a lot of things I have done because I arrived and then trans­ferred the patient with care to the hos­pi­tal. But I didn’t know these peo­ple.

These rur­al and remote nurs­es, they will know them or of them, maybe even been at their birth. How they can do their job so
well with that con­nec­tion is awe-inspiring.”

One of the things, when we talk about dis­as­ters, are the effects on soci­ety. When you think of it, even a small inci­dent in a small town will have a sig­nif­i­cant effect on the town for years to come, for generations.”

Ken remov­ing an injured sea­man from the hold of a ves­sel off Newcastle.

Ken looks back at many instances where he’s been impressed with the ded­i­ca­tion of rur­al and remote health work­ers and recalls one par­tic­u­lar sto­ry of being called out on a Fri­day night to a car acci­dent in a fair­ly remote area with a small hos­pi­tal where there were a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of injuries.

The nurs­es and the SES staff and the ambu­lance staff, they all seemed to be more tidy’ than you would expect. One was wear­ing gold ear­rings, anoth­er high heels,” Ken mused. It hap­pened to be the night of the local area ball. They left the ball to come and treat these peo­ple who were injured. They put their fun aside and came to work. Self­less. That’s what they are.

A pho­to tak­en by a news crew at a gen­uine car­diac arrest. The gen­tle­man was resus­ci­tat­ed and lived for anoth­er five years.

So if I can give back by talk­ing, trans­fer­ring what I have learned, I see that as a good thing. I was not greedy, not hold­ing onto my knowledge.” 

Ken, who has been facil­i­tat­ing Remote Emer­gency Care (REC), First Peo­ples’ REC, and Advanced Life Sup­port cours­es for 14 years, con­sid­ers the hands-on sta­tions to be invaluable.

They are a ter­rif­ic oppor­tu­ni­ty to teach skills and tech­niques, and also they allow par­tic­i­pants to dis­cuss mat­ters,” he says. Some­times peo­ple might be over­awed in a large group, but when they get into the small­er groups, that’s when they tend to raise con­cerns. In addi­tion, the hands-on sta­tions allow the facil­i­ta­tor to assess skills a lot better.”

I’ve had some adven­tures,” acknowl­edges Ken, who start­ed his med­ical career in men­tal health before mov­ing to the NSW Ambu­lance Ser­vice in New­cas­tle, first as an ambu­lance offi­cer, then train­ing in res­cues and mov­ing to work on the heli­copters as an inten­sive care para­medic. (Nowa­days, the med­ical per­son on board has to be a doctor.)

Dur­ing his career, Ken was involved in res­cues fol­low­ing the New­cas­tle earth­quake in 1989 and the Thred­bo land­slide dis­as­ter in 1997. He was invit­ed to go to Israel to work with the Israeli Ambu­lance Ser­vice and trained first respon­ders fol­low­ing the tsuna­mi in Thai­land in 2004.

Ken worked as a para­medic in Israel for a short time.

Ken offi­cial­ly retired near­ly four years ago, but can’t help him­self. Before COVID-19, he worked in first aid at music events and took the oppor­tu­ni­ty to do stand­by first-aid work on pro­grammes such as Mas­terChef, Drunk­en His­to­ry and Mar­ried at First Sight. He is cur­rent­ly work­ing in the gas pro­duc­tion and truck­ing indus­tries under­tak­ing rapid COVID-19 anti­gen test­ing.

But work­ing on the CRANAplus remote work­shops will always be top of his list.

Inter­est­ed in vol­un­teer­ing as a course facil­i­ta­tor? We’d love to hear from you.

Dis­cov­er anoth­er of our facil­i­ta­tors, Kep­pel Schafer.