Specialist Paramedics return to Ukraine to train Military and Police - Great Western Air Ambulance Charity
Ultrasound Training
June 23, 2023
Specialist Paramedic James Yates, first accredited ARNI instructor from a paramedic background in the UK
June 29, 2023
Ultrasound Training
June 23, 2023
Specialist Paramedic James Yates, first accredited ARNI instructor from a paramedic background in the UK
June 29, 2023

Specialist Paramedics return to Ukraine to train Military and Police

Since returning home from a trip to Ukraine in June 2022 to teach first responder care to civilians,  Specialist Paramedics in Critical Care (SPCCs) Pete Reeve, Matt Robinson and Callum Sutton had been waiting for a chance to go back and do it all again.

The chance came in February 2023. With an offer of funding from a generous private source and the support of GWAAC, the trio headed back to Ukraine, this time to train over 200 people from the military and the police.

The desire to return was driven by a feeling from their last trip that there was still so much to be done to help the people of Ukraine.

We caught up with SPCC, Pete to learn more.

An overview of the trip

On 24 February, Pete, Matt and Callum set off from Bristol to Rzeszow in Poland. Given that it was the one-year anniversary of the invasion, they remained in Poland for a day and entered Ukraine on 25 February.

Once in Ukraine, they headed back to the island they stayed on during their first visit to Kyiv. They had one full day of planning and preparation before they spent two days training police just outside of Kyiv.

Two further days of training followed. This time in Odesa for military personnel. From there it was back to Lviv and then home on 3 March.

The crew delivered hands-on practical training, teaching both groups first responder care and covering themes such as how to stop bleeding, using a tourniquet, giving CPR and the triage process.

They used the kit and equipment they’d taken with them to help deliver the training and make it feel as real as possible for the trainees. And thanks to the funding from the private source, they were able to donate some supplies too.

The only slight deviation from the plan came when they were asked to train seven people from the secret service in Kyiv. Pete said, “It turned out to be more of an exchange of knowledge and ideas as this group was already highly experienced in delivering first responder care. We had a similar session with police and national guard medics on the last day in Odesa.”


How does this trip compare to the last one?

Pete says, “This trip felt more like we brought our unique skillset to an audience that would really gain from it. All training is good training, but bringing specific knowledge to a specific crowd was very validating — few other people could have delivered that training to that particular audience.”

Pete also said that Ukraine felt like a very different place from the first time they visited; it felt more organised and totally focused on winning the war. “On the first trip it felt like a country being reactive and a little on the back foot. This time everyone was intent on victory.”

It seems that people are now getting on with their lives and parts of Kyiv are already being rebuilt, which is great for morale.

One thing that was similar to the trip in June 2022 was the positive feedback from the training: “Everyone was just so grateful to get what training they could.”


Stand-out memories!

Pete particularly enjoyed the sessions with the medics: “They had a good base level of training but lacked experience except for that gained in the most extreme circumstances. To be able to bring some experience, alternative techniques, the most up-to-date thinking and a range of adaptations to existing techniques was really rewarding. We were able to add just a bit more nuance to what they’d already been taught.

I think if we’d have had more time with those medics we could have really gone into some more detail and expanded their understanding of why they do the procedures that they do.”

It’s the country and the people that Pete will remember for a very long time: “Seeing more of the country was wonderful and Odesa is a beautiful place, as is Kyiv. The worst part is that everywhere is so far away — the drive from Kyiv to Odesa was immense!”

He talks fondly of the translator in Cherkasy: “He was a history student who saw a request for English speakers to translate our session and he volunteered because, ‘we are told that we should all do what we can to help the war effort and I thought this was how I could do my part’. He was so wonderful and humble. We presented him with my GWAAC woolly hat for being so ace and he nearly cried, bless him.”


Final thoughts

Pete is hoping that this trip will be a stepping stone to him doing more to help people in Ukraine. He says, “I saw a real value in what my skillset can bring to the people of Ukraine and have subsequently signed on with a volunteer organisation to hopefully go back for the majority of September to help with hospital transfers and some clinic work for displaced people. I had learned a little Ukrainian for our trip but have now started having lessons for when I go back.”

до наступного разу!

(“Until the next time!” in Ukrainian)

As well as voluntarily working with different services abroad, our crew also take part in multi-agency training with other local emergency services, such as Avon Fire and Rescue Service and South Western Ambulance Service Foundation Trust. Click the button below to read more about the recent training day we took part in alongside our emergency service colleagues.

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