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Above the skies in Queensland

Dr John Glasheen

Emergency Medicine Registrar in the Redcliff Hospital, Queensland.

Interested in: Prehospital and Retrieval Medicine.

I graduated from University College Cork in 2008 and following on from my previous career as a paramedic I gravitated towards Emergency Medicine and Critical Care, and I have a particular interest in Prehospital and Retrieval Medicine.

In 2013 I moved to Australia with my wife Brigid, who is an Advanced Paramedic. The decision to move was not any easy one, but the opportunity to work in an established Prehospital and Retrieval service was very appealing. We both wanted to experience living in another country, to try something different and see ‘how it’s done’ somewhere else.

I have been fortunate enough to work for Sydney HEMS in New South Wales and Careflight in Queensland, as well as on the iconic Royal Flying Doctor Service aircraft. This type of work is unlike anything currently available in Ireland at the moment, and is something that I have wanted to do for many years.

On Primary missions we provide critical care support to the ambulance service, generally for trauma patients. This is essentially bringing the ED to the roadside in terms of equipment and interventions, but also in terms of decision making – for example we can triage unstable patients with abdominal trauma and a positive FAST directly to the operating theatre.


Secondary missions involve retrieving critically ill patients from peripheral to tertiary hospitals. Usually these patients are very well managed and packaged before we arrive and simply need transfer for specialist care, but frequently we arrive at a rural hospital where there is no local access to the critical care skills required to stabilise the patient prior to retrieval. These missions can be very demanding of both technical and leadership skills.

At the moment I’m working in the ED at Redcliffe hospital just North of Brisbane, and also working part time for Careflight. The ED sees about 65,000 patients a year, with a varied caseload, although trauma bypasses to the Royal Brisbane & Women’s hospital. There is an excellent teaching programme, involving didactic and simulation sessions, and the staffing levels permit daily consultant led bedside teaching.

The most striking difference from the EDs where I worked in Ireland is the absence of trollies in the corridor! Australia has a ‘four-hour target’, and has allocated the resources such as staffing, imaging and discharge support services to make the target achievable. A key part of the plan is that the admission/discharge target in Redcliffe is that the target is for the hospital, not just for the ED.

Outside of work we’re enjoying life in Australia, although we miss the people from home and we’d like to go back home at some stage.I completely underestimated the sheer size of Australia until I got here, and we’ve been able to explore quite a bit, with plans to do and see more. The weather and facilities have even allowed a guy from Tipperary, who couldn’t swim when he arrived, to do (and complete!) a couple of triathlons.

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