Making a difference: Lessons on saving lives

Published: Friday 22nd April 2016

Caption: The Digger’s Trail Wilderness Exercise (DTWE) near Ballarat

When Dr Helen Webb and her ACU colleagues was setting up a navigation trail in rural Victoria for paramedicine students they actually put their skills into action and saved a life.

The Digger’s Trail Wilderness Exercise (DTWE) near Ballarat teaches paramedicine students how to respond to emergencies in the bush, and the Associate Professor in Paramedicine said it has already rescued one life.

“While establishing the navigation course with staff and student mentors, we located a person lost in the bush and guided them to safety. This reinforced to me the importance of navigation as a life-skill for all,” she said.

Dr Webb is a pioneer in Paramedic education and was a member of the team who introduced paramedicine into higher education in 1993. She had extensive experience to draw from having worked and a Clinical Educator and District Officer for the Ambulance Service of NSW.

The Ballarat-based academic has a passion for paramedicine and disaster management and wears many hats continuing to serve as a paramedic with Ambulance Victoria, as a captain in the Australian Army (Reserves - Medical Corp) and as a Major Incident Medical Management and Support (MIMMS) course director for the Advanced Life Support Group Australia (ALSGA).

Dr Webb believed it was important to improve the paramedic curriculum to specifically address responding to the uniqueness of Australia’s tough bushland, hence her involvement in developing the Digger’s Trail Wilderness Exercise (DTWE).

“Ambulance Victoria is not able to provide sufficient clinical placements for all paramedicine students at Victorian universities,” she said.

“In response to this pressure and the identified paucity of wilderness response, navigation and search and rescue content within the curriculum, I developed a distinct and unique exercise as an alternative clinical placement (DTWE).

“In consultation with practicing paramedics, a range of simulated clinical scenarios, drawn from real cases, was developed. Students undertake key foundational skills in search and rescue, navigation and wilderness response, trauma and medical patient treatment and patient extrication in remote settings.

“The DTWE is designed to develop students’ skills in critical thinking, teamwork, leadership, communication and paramedic practice in preparation for transition into the paramedic profession.”

Dr Webb believed that disaster management required further development within the curriculum and in order to further her knowledge and experience she completed the MIMMS course and became a MIMMS instructor with ALSGA in 1993.

“I have since taught MIMMS to health professionals throughout Australia and internationally. The MIMMS qualification is the Emergency Management Australia, Department of Health (all Australian State and Territory Departments), the Australian Defence Force and N.A.T.O. standard and is recognised in 32 countries,” she said.

“I then integrated MIMMS principles and content into the paramedic curriculum which has provided a platform for comprehensive education in disaster and mass casualty management and has enabled Paramedicine students to receive the MIMMS qualification.

“ACU paramedicine students are the only university students in Australia to be awarded a MIMMS qualification. Approximately 159 ACU paramedic students have been registered as MIMMS qualified in Australia and the UK.

“They have become members of an international community of emergency managers alongside senior medical officers, nurses and paramedics.”