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On the wide open plains of southwestern Queensland, hospitals and outside help may be far away. Nicolas Stanford reflects on his time as student paramedic on Charleville Station, the importance of thinking outside the box, and the inspirational professionals he encountered.
My placement with Queensland Ambulance Service to Charleville for two weeks can only be described as one of the best experiences I have had as a student paramedic.
Initially, I was hesitant to apply for a rural placement because the distance and the location can be daunting. But after expressing an interest in remote, rural, and austere medicine, I thought: what better way to try it for real than to travel over 750 kilometres to the Southwest Outback of Queensland?
My university, Australian Catholic University, sent out EOIs for rural placements at the start of the semester and I thought “this would be an excellent experience”.
Immediately I was in awe of the wide-open plains and limitless farms that stretched out around me on the drive from Brisbane; a huge difference to the packed and busy streets of South Brisbane where I currently live.
My first shift at Charleville Station was filled with meeting the other Paramedics who worked there, and hearing about and learning from their experiences, which included highway car rollovers, multi-casualty farm accidents, and numerous transfers to the Royal Flying Doctor Service.
Throughout my placement I met more of the health workers operating throughout the Southwest Health area, such as nurses, doctors and community engagement teams. I was amazed at the calm and relaxed demeanour they showed when talking about caring for patients in settings where definitive care may be hundreds of kilometres away. I enjoyed working on road and treating patients in Charleville and hearing their stories of lives lived on cattle farms as stockmen, or of people who moved out West for ‘one year’ and ended up staying for 20.
One of the biggest learning points for me when practising paramedicine in a rural setting was learning how to think outside the box in relation to how best to treat a patient. In metro services you are never too far away from a tertiary level hospital or a critical care paramedic, whereas out in Charleville and rural Queensland, para-medics often respond by themselves and are expected to get the patient in a stable condition and to the local hospital with little resources.
This has impacted my current practice and made me more excited to explore the different areas of paramedicine in a rural setting.
I did get plenty of time for travel and for seeing what outback Queensland has to offer, and even managed to make a trip out to Muttaburra to see the famous dinosaur – a childhood dream of mine.
Although my placement was short, I learned so much from the paramedics at Charleville Station that will impact me throughout my career. I want to thank the station and all those who took the time to mentor me and teach me. I also want to thank CRANAplus for providing the undergraduate placement scholarship that made placement much easier to manage financially, and for their support throughout.
Apply for an Undergraduate Remote Placement Scholarship for financial support during your clinical placement.