BEING an Ambulance Community Officer means balancing a day-to-day occupation while giving full availability to the community in helping those most in need in times of emergency.
For Hopetoun ACO Hayley Glare-Smith, she finds a great sense of purpose in giving back to her community.
Ms Glare-Smith works as a nurse in the Hopetoun Community, and has been a member of the Hopetoun ACO team for five years.
She said First Responders, including ACOs, play an important role in supporting Ambulance Victoria’s response in emergencies in rural and remote Victoria, working alongside paramedics to deliver exceptional patient care.
“ACOs are members of our community, have a genuine community spirit, and an interest in patient care,” Hayley said.
“We need more people to put their hands up and get involved to help locals in their time of need.”
ACOs are dispatched at the same time as paramedics to a Triple Zero call and due to their location and proximity to the community they serve, they will likely arrive prior to the ambulance.
“We attend traffic accidents, respiratory and cardiac cases and other incidents requiring emergency care to provide early medical intervention and support for patients, while paramedics are on the way,” Hayley said.
“Medical training is not required to apply for an ACO role as Ambulance Victoria provides training to develop and maintain your life-saving skills – but it is not just the technical side of things that ACOs receive support on.
“Ambulance Victoria places a big emphasis on supporting its staff not only at work – we have access to several services that encourage staff to debrief and chat when times are rough as some jobs can be quite difficult and we need to look after ourselves physically and mentally to be able to provide the best care for our patients.”
ACOs also undertake additional driver and Occupational Health and Safety training as they are also involved with transporting patients to hospital if required.
ACOs are trained to provide advanced first-aid in rural and remote communities where the ambulance caseload is low.
“ACOs are employed on a casual basis to work at either a Community branch, or to support a Paramedic branch and are trained to work in a team of two, and to provide a support service to paramedics,” Hayley said.
“ACOs may be employed, self-employed, not working or semi-retired.”
Hayley said community spirit and involvement has always been an integral part of the Hopetoun community.
“Hopetoun has traditionally always had high levels of community support, so it would be fantastic to draw on that community spirit in our time of need,” she said.
“Whether you are considering a possible career change or just want to help make a difference in the community, apply to become an ACO in our local area, by connecting and improving health outcomes for our communities is something that gives us ACOs a sense of achievement and fulfilment.”
She often thinks that if it was her own family or loved ones who needed to call 000 in an emergency, she would want them to receive help in the timeliest manner and ACOs provide this prior to an ambulance arriving on scene.
“While working in nursing alongside the Hopetoun ACO Team Leader, I was made aware that the valuable ACO team would benefit from extra members joining the team, so after a bit of persuasion and encouragement from the Team Leader I signed up and have never looked back,” she said.
“At times it’s a tough and confronting role but it’s also an extremely rewarding role – there are not many jobs where you can walk away and say that you have helped save or improve someone’s life and it is a role that leaves you with a sense of achievement and fulfilment no matter what job you are called to. Knowing you can make a difference in people’s lives is why I encourage others to join.”
Hayley said being able to help a person when they are sick and vulnerable, and to then see them walk down the street fit and healthy provides her and other ACOs with a great sense of purpose, and is another reason why she dedicates herself to providing the best possible care to the community.
Another way people can help the community is by becoming a GoodSAM Responder.
“All Victorian adults with first-aid training now have the chance to save lives by downloading the GoodSAM Responder app,”she said.
“The life-saving GoodSAM smartphone app connects Victorians in cardiac arrest with first-aid-qualified responders and Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) in the critical minutes before paramedics arrive.”
There are almost 10,000 Victorians registered as GoodSAM Responders and in the first six months of operation in Victoria, GoodSAM Responders contributed to saving 20 lives.
“Victorians shouldn’t be surprised if a GoodSAM Responder is at their door within minutes – they are there to help save the patient’s life while an ambulance is on the way,” Hayley said.
“It takes a community to save a life, and GoodSAM brings the community closer together to provide help when it is needed most.”