About the same time Haydn Drake started university some 17 years ago, he started volunteering for St John.
“I had a friend who had been volunteering for St John and it seemed to be a great way for me to learn valuable lifesaving skills while giving something of value back to the community. Around the same time I joined the New Zealand Army Territorials as a medic, as a way of doing something challenging that was away from the lecture rooms and textbooks,” says Haydn.
His experience with St John and the New Zealand Army ignited an interest in out-of-hospital care and a career path that the arts grad hadn’t considered previously.
Upon completing his BA in psychology and philosophy, Haydn spent a couple of years full-time with the Army to complete his medic training, before landing a job with the ambulance service in Auckland. His training initially involved doing the National Diploma in Ambulance Practice to become an emergency medical technician, and then an internal paramedic course – both provided by St John. Haydn then went on to complete a Bachelor of Health Science (Paramedicine) to become an intensive care paramedic. He now also has a Postgraduate Diploma in Health Science.
Working as an intensive care paramedic is not for the faint-hearted.
“I normally work on an ambulance with another officer, or occasionally single crew in a rapid response vehicle, responding to urgent or emergency 111 calls. I am sometimes required to support other crews of lower qualification levels that may have patients requiring additional medications or interventions that I am able to provide at my practice level.
“We carry a wide range of medications for pain relief and management of emergency problems such as seizures, respiratory and cardiac conditions, amongst other things. I am able to perform a wide range of skills from IV cannulation to chest decompression, cricothyrotomy, and rapid sequence intubation.”
Haydn is also currently working as a clinical support officer within the Clinical Development team. This role sees him working to improve patient outcomes by providing mentoring, clinical coaching, advice, support and guidance to operational clinical members. The role also involves working on the clinical desk in the Clinical Control Centre to provide phone support to operational crews around the country and Clinical Control staff.
The 37-year old Aucklander loves his job.
“What I love about my job is being able to make a difference to people’s lives at a time that is often their worst moment, and when they are most vulnerable. This does not always mean performing heroic lifesaving measures that you often see on television, but sometimes just means giving advice, reassurance, or even just holding their hand.”
Haydn is most motivated by the thought that he is helping people.
“Whether it is improving their recovery from injury or illness, or helping someone to die peacefully and with dignity at the end of their life, I can’t think of anything more motivating than improving the wellbeing of others. I also enjoy the challenge of the unexpected, and never knowing what you will be sent to next. Even if the illness or type of injury is familiar, every patient and their family are different and unique.”
But there are hard times as well.
“Besides the shift work and irregular breaks, the hardest thing about my job is the moments I can’t change or influence. Sometimes the nature of a person’s injury or illness means there is very little that can be done, and it can be hard to look people in the eye and tell them that or break bad news to their loved ones. There are always certain patients or situations that stick with you, and you always remember.”