Australian students learn the intricacies of U.S. critical care during VCU Health visit

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VCU Health LifeEvac crew members teach visitors from Australian Catholic University about their work.

VCU Health LifeEvac made a special trip to Chesterfield Airport on Feb. 22 that did not involve lifesaving patient transport. However, it did involve life-changing experiences for a group of students from Australian Catholic University who were in the area as part of an 11-day visit with VCU’s Center for Trauma and Critical Care Education department.

The students shadowed and toured various VCU Health, Richmond and Henrico County medical response departments during the course of their stay. Four ACU students, and the school’s national course coordinator for paramedicine, Shane Lenson, took the 27-hour trip from Down Under as part of a university effort to ensure that at least 25 percent of students gain international experience and learn how other EMS systems function.

On the group’s seventh day abroad, VCU Health LifeEvac crew members W. Jeff Powell and David Murray allowed ACU students to view the helicopter, inside and out, and ask questions about critical care air transport. LifeEvac crew members undergo intensive, specialized training to further enhance their skills to transfer critically ill patients safely and expediently. Inside, the chopper has the same capabilities as an emergency room and an intensive care unit.

Students were also part of “ride outs” with Henrico ambulance personnel and worked with members of the Richmond Ambulance Authority and the Henrico Fire Department. Lenson said the visit was an eye-opener for the students, all in their third or fourth years at ACU and earning a dual degree in paramedicine and nursing.

“Health care in Australia is publicly funded,” he said. “So, students are getting to understand the system here — health care as business. It’s also an opportunity for local staff to learn how health care systems operate in Australia.”

This is the first time ACU has partnered with any organization in this type of academic effort. Lenson is hopeful the VCU relationship will continue.

“We’re hoping to build a relationship with VCU and hope to replicate this exchange in the future,” he said.

James Gould, director of the Center for Trauma and Critical Care Education, said the students’ visit was an opportunity for VCU staff to share expertise and encourage international partnerships.

VCU Health LifeEvac crew members teach visitors from Australian Catholic University about their work.
VCU Health LifeEvac crew members teach visitors from Australian Catholic University about their work.

“VCU Health was glad to offer ACU students the chance to learn how the various United States EMS system models differ from the Australian model, both for routine ground transport as well as critical care ground and air transport services,” he said. “Additionally, the students were able to see the outstanding care provided by the VCU Health team while visiting VCU Medical Center.”

Third-year ACU Student Kim Wiseman was struck by the vastness of offerings at VCU Medical Center.

“I was definitely impressed with the facilities at VCU and especially the pediatric side, having an entire section for pediatric sexual assault,” she said.

Wiseman, who was visiting the U.S. for the first time, said that much of health care appears to be essentially the same the world over, with providers in the U.S. and Australia facing many of the same challenges.

“People are people wherever you go,” she said.