My Paramedic Work Experience Placement in Puerto Vallarta – Tony
I have recently returned from a 5 week paramedic work experience placement with the Red Cross in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. I am applying to train to be a paramedic in the UK so I was looking to increase my general medical knowledge and learn more about the skills required to be a paramedic. Puerto Vallarta is a coastal town popular with tourists, it is the second largest city in the state of Jalisco. The Red Cross are the primary ambulance service in the city which means the variety and scope of experience I gained here was excellent.
On arrival into Puerto Vallarta, Jorge, my host, picked me up from the airport and took me to his house where I would be living for the next 5 weeks. He also gave me a tour of the local area and showed me the Red Cross clinic, only a short walk from his house.
I was primarily working alongside the paramedics in the ambulances however I did spend substantial time in the clinic assisting the doctors and nurses. They were very flexible in terms of the hours and days that you decide to work. In order to gain the most out of the experience I worked 6 days per week and shifts ranged from 10-24 hours including days and nights. The staff were extremely welcoming and friendly. Despite not having any previous medical qualifications and only basic Spanish I was astonished by the level of responsibility and involvement I was given from day one. Every emergency call-out I had a very hands-on role assisting the paramedics. This included escorting the patients, measuring heart rate, blood pressure, blood sugar levels, administering oxygen and providing reassurance. I also received training on how to insert cannulas.
Many of the more minor emergency call outs/ duties included slips and trips, patients with low blood sugar levels, minor cuts, patient transfer duties and a very fun night providing onsite medical cover at a music festival. One of the most interesting was the transfer of a prematurely born baby which was a very delicate and intricate operation. More major incidents included car/ motorcycle accidents, trauma, shootings, seizures, heart attacks and drug overdoses. Due to the variety of both patients and incidences there were many different places patients had to be taken for treatment. Those with more minor injuries or without medical insurance were treated at the Red Cross clinic. Others were taken to the public or private hospitals across the city. This provided an excellent opportunity for me to observe the working relationships between paramedics, patients and other healthcare professionals.
It was fascinating to see first-hand the scope and processes involved in the role of a paramedic in addition to simply providing medical care. Whether it was communication skills with the patients, accurate recording of details and events, maintaining patient confidentiality and dignity, providing reassurance to family members or liaising with other emergency services. On occasions where the patients were American or English tourists who could not speak Spanish, I helped provide instruction and support which was excellent experience in preparation for my future career as a paramedic. The placement also provided a good insight into the reality of the role. Most notably the largest number of incidents were relatively minor with communication and support being the most vital skill. The fact that one day can be completely different to the next with some days or certain times of the week being very busy and others quieter. It can also expose you to critical situations where you need to act quickly and calmly, which can be mentally challenging but an essential element of emergency medical care. I found this an extremely rewarding part of the experience.
I would highly recommend a paramedic placement in Mexico! It certainly provides an opportunity to gain experience and responsibility much more quickly with little previous training than is possible in the UK. In terms of advice I would give would be that you only get out what you put it. Much of the training I received was through asking to be shown how to perform certain processes. Simply try to get involved and help out in any way you can. This will very much be welcomed and will hugely increase the amount you gain from the experience. If you can’t speak Spanish this is not an issue but the more you know the better. Try to learn as much as possible before you go.
The Mexican people are extremely friendly and welcoming, I made many good friends and had great fun working with the paramedics despite my very basic level of Spanish. As I was there over the whole Christmas period I worked the night shift on Christmas Eve which involved a surprise visit to one of the paramedic’s family homes at midnight where I was welcomed in and treated to a full meal with the family! On one of my days off they invited me to a BBQ and a few drinks on the beach which was a very enjoyable day.
This experience was a great way to learn about all the different elements of the role and has only increased my enthusiasm for a career as a Paramedic. I would highly recommend this to anyone who is considering or currently undertaking a career in emergency medical care.
To follow in Tony’s footsteps and join the paramedic / emergency medicine project in Mexico Click here>>