ADVANCED PRACTICE: How did I get here?

26 years ago I started my career with the Scottish Ambulance Service as a fresh-faced young man with no real concept of the big world out there. I’d been a member of Aberdeen Mountain Rescue Team for a while and had experienced a few challenging rescues which I hope had kept me grounded. But nothing can really prepares you for working in Pre-Hospital care in a busy city station.

In those days you really relied on the knowledge and experience of your colleagues and soon discovered that medicine is not always black and white.

Back then my formal training was at a place called Redlands in Glasgow. It used to be an old Maternity hospital, in fact, my brother in law was born there! Now it has been converted into luxury flats. By the time I got there, it had seen better days, but the comradery was outstanding which helped me get through the arduous verbatim learning, numerous scenarios and late nights studying. Being near the centre of Glasgow had its advantages as it gave us ample opportunity to blow off steam.

Gavin Hastings March 2017

Being one of the first Paramedics in Scotland I very quickly gained enormous experience. Being the only Paramedic on shift I would attend every cardiac arrest and serious incident that day. I learned a lot from experience in those days. Now thankfully there are more Paramedics and their education has changed remarkably.

In 2009 I decided I needed to push myself. Despite having vast experience my breadth of knowledge was not great, so I decided to sit the Diploma exam in Pre-Hospital care at the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh. It took a year of hard studying and thankfully I passed on the second attempt. It was undoubtedly the hardest exam I have ever taken. It was held over 2 days with a pass rate of only 40%, even A&E consultants have failed which made me feel much better after failing the first time. (It’s worth noting that the exam has changed a lot and the pass rate is much higher now, you don’t even have to wear a suit!!). Passing was one of the most rewarding things I have done and it gave me a taste for enhancing my knowledge and skills.


I was then lucky enough to be given a promoted post as a Paramedic Practitioner, now called a Specialist Paramedic. Throughout my career I have had a number of roles within the Ambulance Service. From working in a rural station, working with the Special Operations Response Team responding to major incidents and emergency planning, working on a Rapid Response car and ultimately working as a Paramedic Practitioner.

This role has been the most challenging and also the most rewarding role I have had within the Ambulance Service. In this role, I have been very fortunate in being able to work with Advanced Nurse Practitioners (ANP’s) as part of the team at NHS Grampian’s GMED out-of-hours service. To become qualified my training and education was arranged by GMED which has been recognised as one of the best programmes in Scotland. Luckily for me, there is a lot of support given by the ANP’s and GP colleagues at GMED. I also had to do a number of Masters Modules at RGU, including the “Clinical History Taking and Examination Skills for Advanced Practice module which I thoroughly enjoyed despite all the hard work and it’s thanks to Nicola and the team, whose clear guidance and support enabled me to pass.

OD 3

Studying at RGU most definitely broadened my knowledge and skills, making me think in a different way. My practice has been greatly enhanced and I believe this has been reflected in the care that my patients receive. The knowledge and skills I gained at RGU & GMED have helped me enormously in the other side of my role as a Practitioner, where I responded in an ambulance car to emergency calls and was able to treat patients safely at home.

The role of the Paramedic is evolving very quickly and there are greater opportunities now and in the future for career development. Paramedics will increasingly become involved with academia and advanced practice. The advanced knowledge and skills they possess will help in shifting the balance of care and will give them more opportunities to work as a respected member of a multidisciplinary team out in the community. Long gone are the days when ambulance staff only had a first aid kit and a driving license.


Are you interested in advanced practice? RGU offer MSc Advancing Nursing Practice allowing experienced nurses or midwives to develop their skills and knowledge required for advanced practice.

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