International Paramedics Day: Meet the St John WA Special Operations team  

Press Release

They’re the specialist team called to the most complex emergencies – St John WA’s Special Operations paramedics.   

The highly skilled paramedics regularly confront hostile and hazardous environments to rescue patients safely and deliver the lifesaving care they need.  

With an expanded clinical scope and specialised training, PSOs respond to difficult situations in diverse and sometimes unforgiving landscapes across WA. 

Whether it be confined spaces, extreme heights, building collapses, multi-casualty situations or natural disasters, PSOs are trained to tackle a wide range of challenges with precision and effectiveness.  

Confined space rescues are some of the speciality skills the Special Operations team put to the test in regular training exercises.

SJWA’s special operations team started in 2004 but its impact continues to grow and evolve.  

In January, the team transitioned to a full-time operation, to better support on-road crews and other frontline services.

PSO Operations Manager Nik Stewart said when Special Operations started crews responded to about three incidents a year. Now they can be called to as many in a day. 

“The special operations paramedics are primarily there to enter hazardous environments where it is unsafe for a standard on-road paramedic,” he said.   

“They have the training to be able to enter that environment and help with the treatment and extrication of the patient to the ambulance that is waiting for them.”  

Nik said every callout presented a new challenge, but safety was at the forefront of everything they do.  

That’s why the team of 20 regularly hone their skills in diverse training scenarios alongside agencies like the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) and WA Police.   

Last month, the team hit the red dirt in an intense four-wheel-driving exercise in the Perth Hills and went below ground with DFES to practice extrication in confined spaces.   

The Special Operations team at a 4WD training session in the Perth Hills.

“The PSOs are often right at the forefront of the incident” Nik said.  

“Alongside other agencies, they’re sometimes the first medics on the scene, which is quite often an unstable environment.” 

Nik said the team relied on their training and each other to work safely and efficiently under pressure. 

“The PSO team is a great bunch of paramedics, they are very experienced and are the type of people that can be put into any situation, and will get the job done,” he said.    

Operating from a SJWA dual-cab vehicle, a PSO crew comes fully equipped with specialised tools for extrication, HAZMAT exposure personal protective equipment (PPE), advanced medical gear, and provisions for extended or overnight retrievals. 

SJWA Special Operations Paramedic Travis Kendrick said training regularly with this equipment was especially important. 

“You need to be able to think outside the box and keep your adrenaline in check so you can keep your thought processes working,” he said.    

After starting his career as a tradesperson, Travis said he never would have thought he’d end up in the unique role of a special operations paramedic.  

“It’s a fantastic job; every day I pinch myself and am thankful I am in the position that I am,” he said.   

“To make a difference in the community and make a difference for my colleagues by making their jobs a bit safer is awesome.” 

SJWA Special Operations Paramedic Travis Kendrick and Operations Manager Nik Stewart.

To mark International Paramedics Day on July 8, Nik paid tribute to all SJWA teams serving their community across WA. 

“Their service makes a huge difference to the community,” he said. 

“From our volunteers in the country through to our paramedics, every single one of them loves to serve their community.  

“It’s very rewarding to be able to go out there and help somebody when they are in their time of need and for a lot of people, it is the worst day of their life. 

“To help them in that time is extremely rewarding.” 

Find out more about a career with SJWA here.

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