Inspiring, Mentoring and Nurturing the Next Generation of Paramedics

July 7, 2023

In life-and-death situations where every second counts, paramedics are heroes whose dedication is both moving and inspiring. In this edition, Rescue995 presents a first-hand perspective of SCDF’s paramedic training. Through their indomitable spirit and desire to save lives, these exceptional men and women go through an intense training regimen, to attain high levels of professionalism, proficiency and effectiveness in emergency medical response.

Rescue995 spoke to Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Carolyn Low, a Principal Course Commander at the National EMS Training Centre (NETC), who oversees Emergency Medical Services (EMS) training in the Civil Defence Academy (CDA). In addition, we also caught up with SGT2 Aiqil Amani Bin Mohammad Syazwan, a Paramedic Specialist who recently passed out as a full-fledged paramedic in January 2023.

LTC Carolyn Low is firm believer that effective mentorship is essential in helping paramedics to grow and develop in their capabilitiesLTC Carolyn Low is firm believer that effective mentorship is essential in helping paramedics to grow and develop in their capabilities. PHOTO: SCDF / Thomas Lim


Rescue995: Can you share with us how you became a trainer at the NETC?  Do you feel a strong affinity for teaching and mentoring?

LTC Carolyn: No doubt, teaching and mentoring have always been highlights of my career with SCDF! I was trained by senior paramedics at the Justice Institute of British Columbia (JIBC) in Canada. Having witnessed the professionalism of these trainers, I was keen to emulate them.  Upon my return from Canada in 2003, I had opportunities to teach at the SAF Military Medicine Institute (MMI) and mentored several Paramedic Trainees (PMTs) and medics during my tour of duty as a Paramedic at Central Fire Station. After posting to CDA as the Head Medical Vocation Training Branch in 2017, I was honoured to have been nominated for the inaugural Upgrading Professionally through Specialist Certificate in Adult Learning Education (UP-SCALE) Programme at the Home Team Academy (HTA). Through this course, we were trained intensively and equipped with the latest strategies in learning and pedagogy.  


Rescue995: How do your own experiences influence your approach to teaching new paramedics / Emergency Medical Trainees (EMTs)?

LTC Carolyn: I was fortunate to be guided by many good mentors throughout my career in SCDF. Therefore, I strongly believe that good mentors will shape the professional development of our officers and grow their confidence during medical emergencies. Now I am paying it forward and committed to training the ‘mini Carolyns’, in the same way I have benefited from the system.


LTC Carolyn (centre) conducting a lecture for the Paramedic Trainees from several batches agoLTC Carolyn (centre) conducting a lecture for the Paramedic Trainees from several batches ago. PHOTO: SCDF


Rescue995: What’s the most rewarding part of training new SCDF paramedics/ EMTs at CDA?

LTC Carolyn: It gives me a great sense of fulfilment to see batches of paramedics and EMTs passing out from CDA after successfully completing their course. When I attend their graduation ceremonies, their immense pride and sense of achievement spills over to me too. On the occasions that I cross paths with my former trainees, they are always excited to share how they have applied their knowledge and skills during real-life incidents. Personally, it is very rewarding for me to have been a part of their professional learning journey. While I may not be saving lives with my own two hands now, it is still equally satisfying to help groom many exceptional young men and women who will continue to do so.


Rescue995: What are some of the differences in learning styles among your trainees? How do you adapt your training approach to them?

LTC Carolyn: Many of our trainees have visual and kinaesthetic learning styles. Therefore, they learn best by watching (physical demonstration) and doing (skills-based practice). To keep them engaged and motivated, we adopt a hybrid approach in our classes, combining these two approaches for training. As part of our commitment to constant improvement, we would also seek feedback from our trainees to refine our training methodologies and better cater to their learning needs.


LTC Carolyn supervising a practical training session with a Paramedic TraineeLTC Carolyn supervising a practical training session with a Paramedic Trainee . PHOTO: SCDF


Rescue995: What qualities do you think an exceptional SCDF paramedic should have? How do you help to foster these qualities in CDA?

LTC Carolyn: I cannot emphasise enough on SCDF’s core values of “Pride and Care”. Paramedics need to take pride in how they respond to each incident and be caring towards the patients and their family members. They need to be empathetic and serve with a genuine heart. In addition, paramedics should ideally possess effective leadership and interpersonal skills. In short, a pair of helping hands, a warm heart to serve, and a cool mind that can think quickly on the feet goes a long way! The best way to foster these qualities is for mentors to lead by example and instilling these qualities in the trainees from day one!


Rescue995: What are some of the new developments in NETC that you are most excited about? How will your trainees benefit from it?

LTC Carolyn: In our new training facility at NETC, we are using new technology, such as mixed reality goggles and immersive displays to enhance training outcomes. High quality and realistic training scenarios can be created quickly and modified according to our training needs. Coupled with high fidelity mannequins, the trainees will be evaluated based on their responses to the scene and how they carried out the medical intervention and treatment on the mannequin. The ‘force-multiplier’ in using these high-fidelity mannequins is that we can now involve multiple users simultaneously and test the teamwork and coordination of the entire crew. I am truly excited at how we can leverage new emerging technologies for the best training outcomes!


SGT2 Aiqil Amani Bin Mohammad SyazwanSGT2 Aiqil Amani Bin Mohammad Syazwan. PHOTO: SCDF / Thomas Lim


Rescue995: What motivated you to become an SCDF paramedic?

SGT2 Aiqil: As I had studied nursing back in Ngee Ann Polytechnic, I was naturally keen to pursue a career related to the medical profession. During my National Service (NS) with the SAF, I had the opportunity to take part in Project Serve, which allowed combat medics to gain experience through a six-month EMT attachment with SCDF. The experience opened my eyes to what SCDF emergency responders do daily and that inspired me to sign on as an SCDF paramedic.


Rescue995: Can you share with us your training experience at NETC and how it prepared you for the demands of being an SCDF paramedic?

SGT2 Aiqil: The training experience at NETC was demanding but very relevant and applicable to our work as an SCDF paramedic. We are taught how to handle challenges in real-time emergencies, albeit in a safe and controlled environment. Towards the end of our training, we had to go through a three-week operations term which prepared us to use rescue equipment such as rappelling equipment. The use of such equipment in an EMS response would be during  complex situations where we would have to abseil from a height to treat an injured person.


Rescue995: Do you have any memorable experiences from your time in CDA?

SGT2 Aiqil: I remember going through the confined space rescue exercise and trying my best to control my breathing when using the breathing apparatus. As this was the first time that I was using the breathing apparatus set during an exercise, I was quite anxious that I would run out of air! Overall, it was a humbling experience for me, as I attempted to care for the casualty, while managing my own stamina and discomfort while operating in a confine space rescue scenario.


Controlling his breath with the Breathing Apparatus during the confined space rescue exercise was a humbling experience for SGT2 AiqilControlling his breath with the Breathing Apparatus during the confined space rescue exercise was a humbling experience for SGT2 Aiqil. PHOTO: SCDF / Thomas Lim


Rescue995: What are some of the most valuable lessons that you have learned from your instructors and mentors?

SGT2 Aiqil: I am fortunate to have benefited from the guidance of many experienced instructors and mentors. Apart from medical protocols, they also shared important life lessons with me. This was truly inspiring and priceless!

If there is something that sticks with me till this day, it would be this: Never be overconfident or complacent. In this profession, we must accept that learning is a journey, and we must constantly strive to gain more knowledge and improve ourselves at every opportunity. I have also learnt that a comforting word, a gentle touch or a listening ear to my patients, really makes a world of difference to them. They are human too.


Rescue995: In what ways has the training and education from CDA and the Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP) Diploma Conversion Programme prepared you for real-life emergency situations?

SGT2 Aiqil:  As the instructors at CDA and NYP had extensive experience as paramedics, they shared their real-life experiences with us and gave us a clearer mental picture on what we can expect during emergencies. Such authentic sharing, I must say, was what I enjoyed most. It also gave me the confidence when responding to real-life emergencies. Sometimes, we might be shy to ask questions even if we are unsure. Do not let that hold back your learning! The training phase is the best time for us to learn as much as we can by asking questions on certain protocols or medical conditions. On the same note, if you are progressing faster with your training, do slow down and share some pointers with your peers. Your help might be that extra push, to help them overcome learning roadblocks that they may be facing!


SGT2 Aiqil has never once looked back since he signed on as an SCDF paramedicSGT2 Aiqil has never once looked back since he signed on as an SCDF paramedic. PHOTO: SCDF / Thomas Lim


Rescue995: What advice would you give to someone who is keen to have a career as an SCDF paramedic?

SGT2 Aiqil: Firstly, do not be discouraged if you do not have any medical background! Some of the best paramedics I know had no prior medical knowledge or experience. As long as you are willing to learn, the course instructors will impart the knowledge and essential skill sets to you.

Secondly, for those who have the passion to save lives and provide indispensable medical support in times of crisis, we extend an invitation to join us in this noble profession. Align your aspirations with ours and join The Life Saving Force!


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