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Nathan Croft

Nathan Croft

Critical Care Paramedic at the Toll Ambulance Rescue Helicopter Service

When aeromedical paramedic Nathan Croft steps into work he never knows what each day will bring or just where it will take him.

“That, I think, is also what attracts me to this job,” said Nathan. “Every day is different. At any moment our emergency phone could ring and then off we go, you never know what to expect in any one day.”

Born and raised in Sydney’s Sutherland Shire, Nathan has wanted to be a paramedic for as long as he can remember. After completing high school, he went into nursing for two years, but it was always just a stepping-stone to get into the NSW Ambulance Service.

After signing up, his first posting was actually an 18-month stint in Molong. Then, 15 years ago, he returned to the Central West to work as a critical care paramedic for the Orange Aeromedical Service.

It is not just the Toll Rescue Helicopter that makes aeromedical operations different, but also the level of clinical care they can provide in an emergency. The medical team that boards the helicopter includes a specialist emergency doctor as well as a critical care paramedic like Nathan, who are trained to carry out a number of advance life-saving procedures.

“We can provide a similar level of care that a hospital emergency department can provide, but in the field,” said Nathan.

“So, as a medical team we can anaesthetise the patient, put them to sleep, we can do different types of airway procedure, even things like a surgical airway procedure where we might have to cut the neck open and even roadside surgery; we can do amputations if need be. So, it is really like bringing the ED level of care to the side of the road.”

Orange Aeromedical Service is staffed by six paramedics, five pilots and five crew who work 12-hour shifts. Doctors are assigned to the service with some working between the hospital emergency department and aeromedical operations.

While mostly the team from Orange work in the Central West, when the emergency phone rings, they could be deployed nearly anywhere in the State.

“We can be tasked to anywhere in NSW they need us to go — or interstate if need be. Sourcing jet fuel that's the limiting factor, but I've been as far west as Ivanhoe, we've been almost into Queensland and we've done a job in Victoria from Orange,” said Nathan.

The average time from getting a call to getting the medical team airborne is just seven minutes and they can be with a patient anywhere within 300 kilometres radius within an hour.

“It is amazing that we have this capability in Australia. Other parts of the world don’t have anything like this, in terms of the speed of getting this level of care to the patient,” said Nathan.

“Ours, is a huge country and the fact we are able to get across those huge distances in a short amount of time and provide that level of care is absolutely vital.”

Motor vehicle accidents are a common cause of callouts, said Nathan, along with farming accidents and recreational motorcycle riding. They are also called on to transfer trauma patients or the critically ill from small towns to a larger hospital.

“You get pretty busy at times. Last week, both my day shifts I was out all day, the entire shift. I was exhausted by the end of those shifts!” he said.

Paramedic’s jobs involve seeing people at the worse time of their lives;
it’s certainly not a role for everyone

Downtime for the aeromedical team is important, said Nathan in order that they are rested and ready to respond when a call comes in. So, the base includes a recreation room, small gym and sleeping quarters.

“Once everyone has done what they need to do, they can chill out, which is important. You need to be able to sit down and rest, you can’t be on the go all the time or you would get worn out,” he said.

As the paramedic manager, Nathan’s downtime is often filled with paperwork.

“For me the average day can be often quite busy; I'm either out flying on critical missions looking after patients or I'm doing admin things as a manager,” said Nathan.

“You have to be able to switch between the two roles in an instant, at any moment our emergency phone could ring and then off we go.”

Paramedic’s jobs involve seeing people at the worse time of their lives; it’s certainly not a role for everyone.

But for Nathan, it is a calling.

“I guess I really like helping people; it’s is my nature,” he said. “And I get a lot of enjoyment out of helping people.”

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