‘In short, I’ve gained professional resilience’

Paramedic and educator Kallai Sugden shares the highs and lows of his volunteer experience.

Two people are looking at a computer screen. The person on the left is smiling. Both are wearing blue uniforms.

We asked Kallai about life as a volunteer with ProMedical Vanuatu, what he’s learnt on assignment and how the experience has changed him.

What does your role mostly involve?

I engage with a high-risk, high-needs civilian population in a culturally diverse and resource-poor environment. As a clinician, I improve patient safety and clinical care outcomes by responding to high-needs aeromedical retrievals and road response emergency calls with qualified and student paramedics.

Using these experiences, I identify educational gaps in clinical practice and develop and design learner-centered curriculum to promote improvements in clinical care outcomes.

What has been the most surprising aspect of your assignment?

I was well prepared for the challenges involved in working outside a 'western' healthcare system. I had the opportunity to engage with a number of colleagues that had volunteered in Vanuatu in the past.

Here in Vanuatu, healthcare resources are not as readily available. That being said, the people of Vanuatu are a resilient and resourceful people. 

The ability of Ni-Vanuatu people to improvise, adapt and change in a resource-poor environment continues to pleasantly surprise me.

What is the greatest thing you have gained during your assignment in Vanuatu?

In short, professional resilience. As a healthcare professional I know what my patient clinically requires, the problem is the healthcare system in Vanuatu does not always have these resources. This in essence challenges my professional and clinical approach to patient management. 

In Australia, clinicians have clinical practice guidelines that are contextualized according to patient needs. Here in Vanuatu, I find myself having to re-contextualize clinical practice guidelines according to continuity of care.

In Australia, we have a rich healthcare system with plans and procedures to ensure the receiving hospital meets the clinical needs of the patient. Here in Vanuatu, pre-hospital clinical interventions are based on numerous other factors such as hospital resource availability, hospital medications and hospital staff education.

Although my ambulance has all the same equipment and medications you would find in an Australian ambulance, practicing here requires a high level of clinical reasoning, clinical judgment and clinical interventions far exceeding that of a typical Australian ambulance service.

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