The small group were thrilled to finally graduate as ECPs.

Studying to become an Extended Care Paramedic (ECP) is no small feat.

It’s a challenging course that takes a lot of hard work and determination.

Throw in a surge in COVID cases, a lockdown, jumping back on road to support the workforce and some forced isolations, and you’re in for one tumultuous ride.

That’s just a small insight into what the latest group of ECP graduates went through as they completed their studies.

“The group started out at Nepean Medical School, then the Delta strain hit,” Paramedic Educator Candice Andrews said.

“They had to go out on surge twice, the medical school closed due to lockdown so there was a two week suspension where the students had to go back on road while we found a new location.

“We’ve had ride-a-long days and clinical placements continue, but that meant the students were still frontline and consequently three of them had to go into isolation at different points throughout the course and join the class virtually.”

After all the ups and downs, ECP graduates John Quach and Tealisha Clarke, were thrilled to finally graduate.

“We’re ecstatic. It’s been a gruelling course,” John said.

“It felt like we were treading water this whole time but it was good, you learn so much – it’s like one year’s worth of uni content condensed into 12 weeks.”

Tealisha said she joined the service as she wanted a career in helping people, and after three years in the job, becoming an ECP felt like the right next move.

“Being an ECP feels like we’re helping people a step further than what we’re already doing,” she said.

“We have learnt so many new assessments and skills that we can provide a greater assessment of the patient.”

For John, it was a personal experience which made him want to pursue this career.

“I joined the service because I wanted to help people in the community and to be honest, I got a little bit into health while being a carer for one of my family members who got sick a couple of years ago,” he said.

“All my friends suggested I be an ambo or a nurse or something like that.

“It was actually a fork in the road for me to either become a librarian or a paramedic and everyone said I was crazy – I had to become a paramedic!”

While he’s been in the service for five years now, John said his interest in extended care is not new.

“When I was doing my uni course all those years ago I’ve always had an interest in community paramedicine,” he said.

“Knowing that in the service, more jobs are coming in that don’t really fit the typical emergency definition, I always knew the extended care paramedic program would be a big part in the future of ambulance.”

Lead Paramedic Educator for the group, Chris Smith, echoed this sentiment.

“I think at the moment especially, taking into account the NSW Ambulance Strategic Plan as well, ECP and community paramedicine is absolutely the key to a lot of our healthcare problems,” he said.

Chris said he was proud of the group and felt a sense of relief that they made it through.

“Obviously it’s been a really challenging course being in the middle of COVID – so I’m just really relieved that they’re going to be out on road. They all deserve to be ECPs,” he said.

“They’ve been great students and I’m just happy that they’re going to be out there helping the community.”

Fellow Paramedic Educator Stacey Quigley agreed.

“I am very proud and happy for them after everything they have gone through over the last 10 weeks,” she said.

“No course is without its dramas and we had a few more than the average course I’m sure, and they’ve just powered through like absolute champions and come out the other end with success.

“They’re a great bunch of people who are going to make incredible ECPs and I’m just so happy that they’re going to be out there representing us and doing great things in the community.”

Stacey said becoming an ECP is like joining another big family.

“We all support each other because we are on our own for the majority of the time,” she said.

“Having that extra support network who understands the role itself, what we do and the limitations that we face frequently – it’s good to have that sense of community.”

Both John and Tealisha said it was the comradery from their classmates and fantastic support they’ve received from their educators that got them through the course.

“Because of lockdown we’ve been isolated, so we’ve been staying back and studying, getting pizza and just hanging out with each other – our little group is everything at the moment,” Tealisha said.

“And the Educators have been amazing,” John said.