Today’s correspondent has questions regarding current recruiting by St John Ambulance (WA). St John (WA) offers a number of entry pathways. They are (https://changelives.stjohnwa.com.au/changelives/employment)
- Student ambulance officer
- Paramedical Science degree graduate entry and
- Registered nurse and allied health professional pathway
St John (WA) is currently hiring “student ambulance officers” (https://changelives.stjohnwa.com.au/changelives/employment, open to 1 April 2019).
My correspondent is already a registered paramedic but they have been told they are ineligible to apply for this position which, amongst other things, requires candidates to complete the paramedicine degree at Curtin University. My correspondent has been told that if they were ‘eligible I would be required to complete another bachelor degree in paramedicine’. I’m not sure but I would suspect Curtin University would be reluctant to allow someone to enrol if they already had an equivalent degree, but we don’t need to explore that further.
The problem for my correspondent is that St John are advertising for people to join their student program, rather than their program for paramedicine graduates. My correspondent is a registered paramedic but cannot apply. My correspondent says:
The issue I see is that there is a state-wide shortage of qualified and paid paramedics in one of, if not, the largest state and/or territory, less an entire nation in the world. This has previously been identified by the Western Australian Department of Health and Western Australian Country Health Service (WACHS).
Personally, I have travelled and worked in and around remote Western Australia for private companies who are predominantly conducting mining operations and can verify there is a lack of registered-qualified-paid paramedics and volunteer ambulance personnel in rural localities where one would expect there to be.
So, how can the state of Western Australia allow a significant disparity of health workers across the state, which is not merely due to town numbers etc.; and, whilst at the same time – I a well-qualified registered health professional am unable to get work in which the state I was born and grew up in, which I studied my degree in?
The first point is that the State of Western Australia doesn’t operate an ambulance service, it contracts St John Ambulance Australia (WA) to provide ambulance services in that state. And it is up to St John to decide what its recruitment needs are and how it is going to meet its obligations to the state and the community. It does not mean that St John has to employ every graduate paramedic who asks for a job. St John (like any organisation) has a budget and resources and has to choose how to allocate those resources. One may say that a state the size of WA should have more paramedics but there are only limited resources in the state’s budget and no doubt limited resources in the budget of St John.
How governments allocate their budget is not a legal question – that is you cannot sue a government and argue that they should put more resources into paramedics and therefore less into some other area of government operations (see Civil Liability Act 2002 (WA) s 5W). There is no legal argument that the State of WA should fund St John to provide more paramedics than it currently does.
Equally St John has to use its resources to meet the demands on its services. That is not only employing paramedics but all the people that support the service and allocating those resources as they see fit and in accordance with the demands of any agreement with the State. Some may argue (some have argued) for example that St John should not use volunteers (see The role of volunteers and others in ambulance services with upcoming paramedic registration (June 10, 2018)). But there is no law that says that they cannot. They have to work out how they will serve the community with the resources that they have. Others may think that other decisions would be better but ultimately it is up to St John subject to terms of its agreement with the state of WA (see Paramedic Service levels in WA (February 22, 2018) for a link to the Services Agreement Between State of Western Australia and St John Ambulance Western Australia Limited (1 July 2015 to 30 June 2018) and for a discussion on staffing levels).
St john have a number of entries to a career as a paramedic. Today they are advertising for people to come in and join their ‘student ambulance officer’ program. No doubt there are reasons behind that decision and reflections on how that helps their workforce planning. The fact that there are people like my correspondent, that is registered paramedics who would like to work with St John (WA), does not mean that St John has to employ them as well as, or instead of students.
This simply is not a legal question. It is a policy question. The State of WA choses to contract with St John (WA) to provide ambulance services. St John has to meet its contractual obligations but how it does that is up to St John. How they manage their workforce is also a matter for them. If anyone thinks St John, or the government are doing a bad job in that regard their recourse is to take it up with the Minister and, ultimately, run for office. There is no legal remedy to be pursued. That St John wants to employ people as student paramedics rather than graduate paramedics does not give rise to any legal rights in, or obligations to, graduate paramedics who would like a job.
It would be absurd if for example a Health Network only recognised AHPRA Registered Nurses with degrees from one particular university. Yet it seems, if I have read you correctly, that WA St John as an employer is discriminating against AHPRA Registered Paramedics who did not go to their favoured university. Surely this must be some form of restrict of trade or discrimination? Do those going through the WA St John RN pathway also have to be Curtin University graduates?
No Russell, you do not read me correctly.
St John WA are recruiting student paramedics ie people who do not have a paramedic degree. As part of their employment they are paid to complete the degree at Curtin university. It’s not unusual for employers to have relationships with training institutions, including universities, and to put recruits through that program.
If they were recruiting graduate paramedics they need ‘Bachelor Degree of Health Science – Major in Paramedicine or equivalent’. It doesn’t have to be from Curtin.
After attending an information evening at stj. I can assure you they do not recognize any other degrees from any other training institute or university. However you can apply for the student officer training, which you need to be expected onto. Then prove to stj that you can enter into curtin for the studies related. These are two separate things that fall on the individual to pursue. However if you are successful in both, you can apply for credits, recognised prior learning with curtin. Hope that is helpful. Out of 600 applicants they can only accept 40.
The original correspondent is, I believe, misinformed as to a key premise of this question. He or she might be interested to know that SJA take graduate paramedics through the student program all the time. Regardless of whether you do the student or graduate program, you are required by SJA to do the same on-road time to be recognised and employed by SJA as a paramedic (regardless of whether you are already AHPRA registered, and it stands to reason that graduates would be). If you apply for the student program and already have a recognised degree, you don’t have to redo it through the partner university. The only difference as I understand it is a slightly longer induction program than you’d have through the graduate program, and more being taught how to suck eggs that you already know because you’ve got a complete degree under your belt.
If the correspondent is an experienced paramedic not wanting to do 2-3 years of on road time before being employed by SJA as a paramedic, he or she is welcome to apply the next time the relevant openings come up.
If you hold a current Authority to Practice as a Paramedic with an Australian State or Territory Ambulance Service, you are eligible to apply for vacant Qualified Paramedic positions with St John NT. Please see our Current Vacancies page for details of available opportunities.