We last heard from Jon back in 2013 as he was setting out on his quest to make the career jump from security management to medical responder.
At that time he’d just taken his first serious steps in completing a Pre Hospital Medical Technician course, so we thought now would be a good time to check back in and see whether everything was going to plan.
Following on from the PHMT course, which I completed with Medipro Training in mid 2013 (Editor: You can read Jon’s review of the course in issue 22) I then returned to Kabul in my capacity as a project Risk Manager and immediately set about looking at ways to become a registered paramedic and completing the transition from security operative to medic, which was always the long term goal.
I knew, at that time, that I did not want to work in the UK, at least not in the immediate future, opting instead to continue working out of hostile environments and it quickly became apparent that the AREMT Remote Paramedic qualification was going to be the best option for me to realise my ambition.
Weighing Up The Options
I exhaustively researched many training companies and found Merit Training to best fit my requirements. Not only did their Industry Paramedic course enable me to register with AREMT as a Remote Paramedic but the cost of the course included all the required ‘add on’ qualifications; ACLS, PALS, Advanced Trauma Management and even the clinical placements at no extra cost. The MD Aebhric O’Kelly was incredibly attentive and always made himself available to answer my numerous questions either by phone or email. I’ve actually called Aebhric on several occasions whilst responding to medical incidents and he’s always been there to help and advise.
One thing that became apparent to me pretty soon after I’d begun researching potential training providers was that most just didn’t seem to want to ‘go the extra mile’ or make any real effort when dealing with potential clients. An awful lot of companies I emailed requesting information either ignored my email or simply replied with a link to the company website! Aebhric was a breath of fresh air and actually called me several times in person to talk me through the process in simple terms so that I had a clear idea of what the training would, 1 – cost, 2 – consist of and 3 – what an accurate timescale would look like.
Considerations & Requirements
For me the biggest issue was going to be finding time to study, the Merit training, Industry Para course is a 1400 hour commitment as a minimum. 1000 hours of guided online/classroom learning working through the ‘paramedic bible’, Nancy Caroline’s ‘Emergency Care In The Streets’ followed by written and practical exams and assessments, all of which is then put to practice with a minimum of 400 hours front-line clinical work.
Fortunately, when I embarked upon this plan I was still working in Kabul on a 6/6 rotation. The job had its moments but it also afforded me plenty of free time and I was able to commit to a couple of hours to study most days. This was especially advantageous in so much that it allowed me time to spend with the family, while at home on leave, rather than having to give up every spare moment to studying – that said, I still managed an hour or 2 most days. My aim was to get the course completed in as short a time as possible and quickly get working as a medic and thereby justifying the cost (£6000 for the Industry Paramedic course when I did it). In all honesty if you are considering taking this on you must be prepared to sacrifice most of your social/family life for the duration or it will either take an age to complete or will become a huge emotional and mental struggle.
It became apparent pretty quickly that this course was way above anything I had done before (It’s a level 5 academic course) and would therefore require 100% commitment to give myself a fighting chance of passing. For good measure I decided, after completing the PHMT course and before undertaking the Industry Paramedic training, that instead of enjoying some well-deserved R&R, I would gain a Diploma in Anatomy & Physiology! In hindsight maybe I should have taken a break but it did give me the knowledge that I would ultimately need for the academic side of the Para course, so, although hard work it benefited me in the long run.
After spending a month in Malta in July 2014, completing exams and practical assessments I then went to Moldova for 45 days to work as a frontline ALS medic which allowed me to register with AREMT as a Remote Paramedic. We worked 24hr shifts rotating between the ambulance, A&E and ICU departments thus gaining vast and broad experience working alongside English speaking doctors who also act as mentors for trainees.
During my time in Malta I started applying for positions across the Middle East as a ‘Tier 2 Medic’ and was lucky enough to walk straight into a position as the lead medic for a locally owned company in Basra. Here I gained vast experience in dealing with everything from heart issues to lung infections and all manner of traumatic injuries. I held this position for 14 months I decided to call it a day. Having spent the better part of 12 years prior to that working in and out of hostile environments I felt it was the right time to come back to the UK and attempt to establish some ‘normality’ in my life, whatever that may be!
Due to the fact that the AREMT qualification is not recognised in the UK I had to do yet another course to enable me to work in the UK. I completed a 2 week conversion course and managed to get an interview with Yorkshire Ambulance Trust and have since been offered a position as an advanced Technician. It’s not working at paramedic level but the trust will put me through university so I can work as an HCPC paramedic in the UK eventually. The AREMT course equates to 1 year at university and is a level 5 academic qualification so I am able to do 1 year day-release at university here and then register as a UK Paramedic.
So, all in all, what has it cost me? At a rough estimate I would say somewhere in the region of £25-30k for training and travel cost, over the course of 5 years. Additionally, depending on your situation, you may also have to factor in a loss of earnings too as it is highly probable would need to become unemployed to dedicate yourself to the hours required. I do know people who have taken a similar route to me and stayed in work but it has taken them a lot longer. So, if you’re not in a rush to qualify and you’re looking for a more cost effective route then it could be a consideration.
Soon after becoming qualified an opportunity presented itself, which I turned down but in ‘hindsight’ perhaps I should have taken. I was offered a position with RMSI working as a remote paramedic on a rescue team based in Mogadishu Somalia. I was earning well above the average for medics at the time and so I turned it down, but thinking about it now, it would have been fantastic experience for me and would have broadened my medical knowledge massively. Ultimately we need to decide whether it is the $ which is driving us or not, I am now in a position where it’s not purely about the money but like so many in this industry I was very driven by the dollar for a long while. Looking at it retrospectively, I think maybe it was my need to justify the massive financial outlay to both myself and my wife that kept in in Iraq when I could have gone to Somalia and earned less but developed more.
As I wait to start with the UK ambulance service, this is a good point to reflect and when I look back over the last 5 years and consider whether the thousands of pounds spent and the hundreds of training hours consumed over the last 5 years have been well invested? Ultimately, yes, I believe so. I achieved what I set out to and have put myself in a position where I am very comfortable, financially, I’ve had some incredible experiences and I’ve learned a huge amount, which conclusively reaffirms my belief that medicine is the field where I want to spend the rest of my working life.
I have re-registered with AREMT and will continue to do so every year just in case the ‘dream job’ comes my way, never-say-never, as they say.
To anyone thinking about making the transition from security consultant to medic I would wholeheartedly recommend it. If you’re considering working long term in theatres such as Iraq, Afghanistan, and so on then you need to make yourself as employable as possible. In the current climate, one of the best ways to do that is to become a well-qualified and experienced medic. Where the security industry is flooded with guys leaving the forces, doing an SIA course and heading out to the Middle East, there is a shortage of properly qualified, registered medics in these hostile environments, for the time being. As a qualified medic there are opportunities all over the world, such as working for the many established oil companies, so we are not only limited to the Middle East, which no longer seems to be the place to earn decent wages anymore. Becoming qualified is neither an easy option, nor a cheap one and there are certainly no short cuts but the end result is well worth it. People sometimes look at me strangely when I tell them how much time and money I have spent but to me the end result justifies the sacrifices I have made to get here.
As an idea of how many courses you can expect to complete to make yourself a well-rounded, qualified medic these are the qualifications I have amassed to date; FPOS (I), MIRA, Remote Team Medic (First line response), Pre Hospital Medical Technician (Medipro Training), IHCD Ambulance Technician, City & Guilds Food hygiene + safety, Diploma in A&P, Diploma in Pathology, Industry Paramedic (Merit training), AREMT-Paramedic, ACLS/PALS, Difficult Airway Course (Merit training), Assessment and treatment of trauma, PHTLS, Pharmacology for the remote medic.
Making the Transition, Security Operator to Paramedic
By: Jon Dennison