Meet the parachuting paramedic who is on his way to the US next month to compete at the world skydiving championships.
Rob McMillan, 50, is a trainee paramedic based at Tamworth South Ambulance Station.
While Rob’s experience as a paramedic is limited – he only completed his induction in May – he certainly has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to working in a fast-paced and problem-solving type of environment, which one would typically expect of a NSW Ambulance clinician.
This is because Rob has been a professional skydiver for 15 years, an instructor for 29 years and he has jumped out of a plane close to 20,000 times.
He has also been to 18 skydiving world cups and world championships, where he once ranked third in the world in his discipline – canopy piloting.
Next month he’s off to another global event – his first since becoming a paramedic – where he is aiming for a top 20 finish in the 2022 World Canopy
Piloting Championships, part of the 2022 World Parachuting Championships in Arizona.
At the championships he will compete across several events that test speed (Rob will travel up to 100 km/h downwards and 150 km/h forward across a
75m-long course); distance (testing how far Rob can travel horizontally with his parachute while his feet touch the water); accuracy (a targeted landing in a drop zone); and freestyle (performing different tricks, such as spinning around in a harness).
Many would be surprised to hear that Rob – who patiently had to wait until his 18th birthday to start skydiving, given his parents wouldn’t sign the waiver form for him beforehand – considers adrenaline only a small part of his thrill-seeking sport.
“Most of it…. I would say 90 per cent, is mental and the other 10 per cent is physical,” he said.
“I class adrenaline as the physical side, which includes that energy that gets you going to make things happen while up there.
“While I don’t have much experience as a paramedic yet, already I think paramedicine is similar in respect to this percentage ratio. As paramedics we do a lot of physical moving, but most of it is problem solving, communicating and putting things in place to make what you do happen. With both of them, if you don’t have everything lined up correctly, you can’t be expected to perform at the end.”
Rob – who previously worked as a special educator in juvenile detention centres before deciding to seek a new challenge as a paramedic – said he thrived on several other similarities between the two specialist roles.
“What I love about both is that no two days are the same,” he said.
“You never know quite what you’re getting into on a particular day. With skydiving the difference can be the weather conditions, while as a paramedic it can be how you are going to treat a patient.
“There’s the technical side – having a plan and contingency for all situations, and having to think quickly and adapt to all changes. It’s having that ability to believe what you are doing is the right thing to do.”
That being said, he also pointed out a notable difference.
“In skydiving there are consequences for your own behaviour, as is the case with paramedicine, but unlike skydiving, in paramedicine there is somebody else relying upon you to do the right thing… so I think the stakes are higher in paramedicine.”
As Rob prepares for his trip to the US – where he will be competing against 100-odd fellow skydivers – he thanked his colleagues and management for
“When I first approached them (management) for time off, they thought I was going as an official before I explained I was competing,” he said.
“They’ve been really good with allowing me to go – and not just with that, but also on every aspect of the job, with regards supporting the balance between work-life and home-life.”
For more information on Rob’s event go to www.fai.org/isc-eloy2022