ProQA Down Under

Veronika Fagerer

Your Space

Nick Willis has been an EMD at St. John Ambulance, part of the Western Australia Ambulance Service, for three years now. In a 2.6 million sq. km. (745,645 sq. mi.) service area, this agency supports 140 towns with a population of 2.7 million, the majority living in and around the city of Perth. To cover this wide area, paramedics are supported by nurses at nursing posts and volunteer staff outside the metro area. All these resources are connected through the communication center, which dispatches for the area.

Willis started his career as a support worker, caring for ventilator-dependent quadriplegics. While it was a very rewarding line of work that taught him many things about medical terminology and at-home care, full-time employment was challenging to find. When he saw a job posting for an EMD position, his interest was piqued, and he decided to make the switch. Since emergency dispatch is not a profession you hear much about in school or the media, Willis thinks it is about realizing that emergency dispatch is a career you can choose. “Turns out, I love it,” he reflects three years into the job.

To teach future generations about the profession, his agency uses opportunities like first aid trainings to explain what happens in the background—the work in the communication center.

When it comes to the MPDS®, what stands out most for Willis is its adaptability. “ProQA® can really be adapted to any demographic. So, it doesn’t matter what age the caller is, if you got a child caller, if they are elderly, if English isn’t their first language […], ProQA is presented in a form that everyone can understand it.” The wording is simple and breaks down important information so you get the answers you need and can give the instructions to help the patients.

How well especially young callers handle themselves during emergency calls becomes evident in two of Willis’ examples. When a young girl called emergency services with what turned out to be a CPR call, it impressed him that she was able to even remember her mother’s phone number in this high-stress situation. Not only did she answer questions and carry out Dispatcher-Directed CPR, but she was calm enough to simultaneously provide the necessary information for her mother to be notified. Another girl, whose family didn’t speak English, was able to relay all necessary information from her parents to the emergency dispatcher and vice versa so they could help an unconscious patient. Even when the use of the Breathing Verification Diagnostic Tool became necessary, ProQA presented the information in a format that the girl handled perfectly in two languages.

Another main point for Willis is the call prioritization in ProQA. While everyone calls with something that is an emergency to them—which is always distressing—communication centers need to prioritize the most time-sensitive calls. It can be challenging for emergency dispatchers who understand the panic callers feel, especially when it is the first time they come in contact with emergency services. Education about what constitutes the highest priorities and a system to allocate resources accordingly is critical.

Willis advises anyone who works with the MPDS to “just keep asking questions.” Emergency services—and with it the MPDS—are always changing and evolving. It is the nature of the job, according to Willis, that you eventually get a call type you’ve never handled before. Reading up on Journal articles and additional information in ProQA, keeping an eye out for changes and updates, or simply emailing someone with a question will ensure you are prepared. Someone will have or be able to find the answers for you.