Initially it was nursing that caught Riley’s attention but a conversation with a family friend redirected her ambitions down the road of paramedicine and the rest is history.

“I thought about being a nurse, that always interested me, but I had a chat to a friend who is a paramedic and decided to give it a go and now I love it. I also like the ‘you never know what you’re going to get’ aspect and it’s different every day. Every job is different so you never get bored.”

Though Riley is still in the process of completing her three-year Bachelor of Health Science (Paramedic) course at Whitireia in Wellington, she still gets out onto the job at every available opportunity.

This has been supported by the course’s placement programme and also by Riley’s own initiative, as she applied to be a volunteer for Wellington Free Ambulance halfway through her first year of study.

“From your third week into the study they put you out on placements so you’re actually going out on the ambulance with the paramedics. This way you’ll get an idea of whether you will like the job or not straight off the bat so you’re not wasting time doing the whole degree.”

These placements have given Riley many hands-on experiences in the job already and have shown her the ups and downs of dealing with people in need of medical care. Riley loves being out on the road and ready to help. The fact that every day is different, she says, also brings a sense of excitement to the job.

“In saying that though, it’s quite hard getting used to night shifts and going to a big job you do see people at their worst – you do see people die and you obviously see dead people and you have to try and bring them back.”

It’s not a job for the faint-hearted but Riley says it’s extremely rewarding all the same.

Along with being brave and mature when dealing with the dying or deceased, there are several other skills that paramedics must pick up along the way.

“You have to have good time management – that’s a big one that they ask about when you go to the interviews. You have to be calm because you’re dealing with people who might not want an ambulance or have overdosed and become aggressive. You go to lots of mental health centres so you have to be comfortable de-escalating situations. You have to be comfortable working both as a team and independently and communicating with people of all ages.”

Rylie loves the job and is hoping to remain in Wellington as a paramedic, with either Wellington Free Ambulance or St John New Zealand, once she’s qualified. Her Whitireia degree is internationally recognised so should she wish to travel there are also many overseas opportunities available to her. This potential fuels Riley’s passion for paramedicine and her desire for others to join the profession.

“Just go for it. I’ve found it awesome. It’s not for everyone but you’re out on placement so early into your study, if you don’t like it you’ve got nothing to lose. It’s such an awesome thing to be involved with because you’re always helping people so if that’s what you’re into then go for it.”

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