How Aussie paramedics are zooming past ambulances to global careers

By Our Reporter
Representational Photo by Mat Napo on Unsplash

From the sun-drenched coastlines of Australia to the bustling streets of London, Australian-trained paramedics are making a mark on the global stage. For many, the journey starts at Victoria University (VU) in Melbourne, where they’re setting off for career-defining experiences abroad.

The London Ambulance Service (LAS) serves as a notable hub for this international exchange of expertise. At present, approximately 20% of LAS’s 2,500-strong workforce hail from Australia and New Zealand. The need for degree-qualified paramedics in London is acute, as the LAS handles an astonishing 5 million emergency and non-emergency calls annually. This shortage presents a unique opportunity for Australian paramedics to upskill in a myriad of roles—from landing in helicopters at roadside emergencies to collaborating with the fire brigade in search and rescue missions.

Adam Pilmore, a lecturer in Paramedic Sciences at VU, states that these opportunities make an overseas stint extremely valuable. “Two years in London is equivalent to four years in Australia,” he notes. This sentiment is echoed by VU graduate William Harrison, who, along with his wife Laura, spent seven transformative years working in London. Harrison, who was involved in the emergency response to the 2016 bombings in Paris, went on to receive the Governor General’s Medal for bravery.

Ahmed Saleh // Pic supplied

The allure of working in one of the world’s busiest cities also offers the chance for personal growth. For William and Laura, their plan to spend just a couple of years overseas evolved into a seven-year journey, thanks to the diverse roles they were able to undertake. Laura became the first Australian paramedic to serve with London’s Helicopter Emergency Service, while William had a stint with the Hazardous Area Response Team. The pair returned to Australia in 2022, where William now works in the tranquil South Australian town of Millicent and Laura is pursuing a Master of Remote and Extreme Medicine at the University of Tasmania.

However, the allure of an overseas career is tempered by practical considerations. Salaries in London are typically lower than in Australia, and the cost of living is substantially higher. But despite these challenges, the couple advocate for the experience, citing the invaluable skills and life lessons they have gained.

Apelu Sauoaiga Kaio // Pic supplied

VU continues to serve as a breeding ground for international medical talent. In recent years, it has sent between 30 and 50 graduates overseas annually. Although this number has decreased due to the COVID-19 pandemic and an increase in job opportunities in Australia, the university remains a critical link in a global network of medical professionals.

Among its most notable international alumni are Apelu Saugaiga Kaio, Samoa’s first qualified paramedic, and Ahmed Saleh Alhajeri, the current CEO of the United Arab Emirate’s National Ambulance Company, serving a population of over 70 million people.

As Australian paramedics continue to make waves globally, their stories not only shed light on the fascinating interchange of medical expertise across borders but also underscore the limitless potential for those willing to venture beyond the familiar.

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