Paramedic volunteers to provide trauma care in the armed forces

Paramedic volunteers to provide trauma care in the armed forces

Paul Dunn Army Medic Reserve

Paramedic Paul Dunn from Lincolnshire is a full time paramedic in Horncastle and a Medic Reserve with the armed forces. To celebrate Reserves Day he shares his story.

In the operations room of a military medical facility a radio crackles into life. Close by, the paramedics immediately take notice, among them Staff Sergeant Paul Dunn of 335 Medical Evacuation Regiment, Royal Army Medical Corps.

"Nine-liner, Nine-liner!" calls out the medical operations officer receiving the call.

The phrase refers to the nine lines of information relayed from the field to medical staff to make them aware of what they will be dealing with, including location, severity of injury and so on. A 'nine-liner' can often mean serious casualties. Within seconds, Sergeant Dunn’s Initial Response Team (IRT), has set off in specialist military ambulances to provide initial treatment at the scene. As a paramedic with the East Midlands Ambulance Service in civilian life, scrambling quickly is what Paul is used to doing. The difference is what he finds upon arrival.

The IRT is confronted by multiple casualties: a gunshot wound to the abdomen, first-degree burns to a soldier's hands, a young civilian girl with shrapnel protruding from her arm. The most devastating injuries are two soldiers who have had their right arms blown off, one at the elbow and the other at the shoulder. Both are bleeding severely. Everyone is screaming with pain.

The medical team immediately get to work. They assess the injuries, apply tourniquets and dressings, administer morphine, write times with markers on bare skin and load the casualties onto stretchers and into the back of the ambulances. After only a few minutes the scene has been cleared. The wounded are soon transferred to a Resus facility, essentially a military A&E. There they are stabilised and readied for transfer to a more advanced facility with surgical capability.

All of this has taken place not on some dusty desert battlefield, but in rural Shropshire. The blast and gunfire are simulated, the wounded civilians and soldiers played by cadets or servicemen. The amputees are real, but are covered in impressive makeup. It has been one of many scenarios undertaken by Paul during a two week-long training exercise. The battle wounds may have been fictional, but with an emphasis placed on authenticity, the training value for him is very real.

"In the military you do a lot of training for different mechanisms of trauma injury that you only touch on in civilian practice," said Paul. "It can be blast injuries, high and low-velocity gunshot wounds, catastrophic haemorrhaging, traumatic limb amputations, and all in an immersive, realistic setting."

Paul served in the army infantry for twenty-five years, then attended university to train as a paramedic. He recognised that he could combine both experiences and make a contribution to military medicine, while improving his own skills to apply at East Midlands Ambulance Service.

"It's great to be part of an IRT, with a mix of doctors, anaesthetists, medics and paramedics," said Paul. "That combination means I can learn from other practitioners and draw on their experiences to help improve my own knowledge and practice, which I then take back with me to my civilian job in the Ambulance Service."

With the training benefits so clear, Paul's employer has been very supportive in allowing him the time to attend courses and exercises. He believes other paramedics debating whether to join the military reserve services have a lot to gain, both personally and professionally.

"I'd definitely recommend it to any of my paramedic colleagues," said Paul. "You extend your skills, knowledge and experience by working with likeminded clinicians from across the country, improve your teamwork and communications, travel abroad and it doesn't cost your employer a thing."                                   

More information about careers in the Reserve Army Medical Services can be found by searching online for ‘Army Reserve’.