HomeInvesting in the future of our clinical care: Inside our flagship Pre-Hospital Care Course
16 May 2024

Investing in the future of our clinical care: Inside our flagship Pre-Hospital Care Course

Investing in the future of our clinical care: Inside our flagship Pre-Hospital Care Course

In April, we held a brand new, revamped version of our flagship education event, the Pre-Hospital Care Course (PHCC).

Our team has designed bespoke courses for many years, and this was a new and exciting venture! Medical care is constantly evolving and with the setting-up of our Centre for Excellence in 2022, our aspiration was to be one of the most effective providers of education in the global air ambulance community.

Major education event

The course is aimed at all our new doctors and paramedics but is much more than an ‘induction’ course. Overall, this was a major education event with learning taking place on a significant scale across all areas of our organisation.

Education and training are often terms that are used interchangeably. Medical training courses most often require candidates to learn a series of facts or ‘algorithms’ and then deliver them in controlled environments. An education programme is very different and enables clinicians to both assimilate knowledge, but also apply that knowledge in an uncontrolled setting. The PHCC combines these approaches to maximise the opportunities for our clinical teams to apply their extensive experience and years of learning to a patient at the roadside. Caring for patients at the scene of an accident or sudden illness often requires our teams to solve multiple complex problems simultaneously and under the pressure of time. This is very different to hospital medicine, where the environment and patients are usually supported in a far more controlled way.

Our PHCC in April was 6 days in length, with a roughly equal number of doctors and paramedics involved. The course was led by our education lead, Lisa Burrell, an experienced advanced paramedic of 18 years’ service. Lisa also has a background as an educator, leading university-based postgraduate education programmes. Lisa worked with Dr Gareth Grier, our Centre for Excellence lead, to deliver the course, alongside an extremely long list of dedicated people who offered a truly admirable contribution.

Lectures from experienced specialists within our team were delivered on subjects such as head injury, cardiac arrest, and patient experience. Practical sessions covered a whole spectrum of illnesses and conditions that are encountered by our team from babies with severe meningitis to adults requiring open chest surgery for stab wounds.

Bringing realism to the educational experience

We worked with our neighbouring universities at Queen Mary, Anglia Ruskin, and Cambridge Universities to bring medical and paramedic students into the course as actors for scenario work, and to help with course logistics. An essential part of simulated cases is to bring a realism to the educational experience. Many hours were spent with the students in advance of the course, to coach their medical acting skills. The end-result was a series of realistic scenarios that resemble the accident scene.

Our faculty team of experienced doctors and paramedics themselves undertook specific training to be able to act as teachers on the newly revamped course. We held four especially constructed faculty training days in advance of the course. We introduced modern principles of medical education to the faculty team so that the education process was as effective as possible.

Investing in the future of our clinical care

Behind the scenes, there was a cast of many. Team members were involved with preparing lectures (often taking many hours of work), setting up workshops and scenarios, and debriefing. The hard work of setting-up and clearing simulated scenes and events was only possible thanks to a significant investment in time from our team. It became clear that we have a highly functioning team at EHAAT who truly invest in the future of our clinical care.

The Friday of the course brought together a ‘cast’ of 70 or so members of the extended team to deliver a simulated ‘day at work’. Resembling as closely as possible a day in the life of a helicopter team, candidates were sent to a total of 12 different scenarios involving a wide range of patients, conditions, and problems. The airbase at North Weald was alive with activity everywhere, exploiting all the opportunities that we now have with our facilities. In addition to the standard cases, candidates experienced staged television interviews, interrogation by inquisitive medical students, and importantly, a simulated family visit, mirroring the work that our teams undertake with our patient and family liaison team. The latter brought home how vital this work is, and how precious and important the conversations that we have with families, are.

A crucial theme throughout the course was one of compassionate care.

Compassionate care is the treatment of every patient as an individual, not just a number. This is something that anyone who has ever been a patient or a family will recognise and is a principle that is culturally embedded into the work carried out by all our clinicians. We are proud to be compassionate clinicians, even under extremely tense and difficult circumstances. This is what our patients need, and deserve, during quite possibly the most important day of their lives.

We are currently reviewing and reflecting on all that went well, and on all that we need to do to make the course even more effective next time. We’re looking forward to the next course in September. Thank you so much to everyone who took part.


Dr Gareth Grier, Centre For Excellence Project Lead

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