For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began, more than 350 Sydney students were invited to celebrate their success and achievements at graduation ceremonies.
In another first, Dr Sharon White ASM, became the University of Tasmania’s first honorary graduate to complete a walk-through.
After a shock health diagnosis forced her to abandon her PhD, Dr White described receiving the honorary degree as incredibly emotional.
“I was diagnosed with a rare cancer one year before I was due to complete my studies, so I had to make the choice, what do I want to do? Do I want to sit in front of the computer for another 12 months? I decided to stop," Dr White said.
It has been four years since she was diagnosed with stage four cancer and she was delighted to discover that she was going to be awarded a Doctor of Medicine honoris causa for the substantial contribution and outstanding service to the University and NSW Ambulance in paramedic education and clinical practice.
“It was such a wonderful moment in my life,” Dr White said.
"All I have ever wanted to do was to help people, whether it's patients, paramedics or the public."
The skilled health professional is credited with creating simulation activities for Volunteer and Community First Responders (VCFRs) in NSW to provide them with hands on training and assessments.
Whether it’s a three-car crash, a patient threatening self-harm or a water rescue, Dr White tries to make the experience as real as possible, even if it means using green cordial and bicarbonate soda or calling in a favour from other emergency services.
This includes holding a simulation in the mines in Parkes, NSW, which involved a NSW Ambulance on site.
“Volunteers don’t respond to these incidents all the time, but the community has an expectation of their capability and that puts a lot of pressure on them,” Dr White said.
“This is a practical way of providing training and assessment.”
The simulations have been held in rural and remote NSW, as well as in Papua New Guinea. In a single day approximately 40 paramedics and volunteers complete 6-8 simulations in a round robin event. They are given an hour to complete each activity and then complete a debrief.
In one case, paramedics have to attend to a car crash where the roof is cut away and each of the patients, all with complex trauma, are removed. In another, police use a taser to 'take down' a suspect and paramedics are required to respond to the person's injuries.
Using her experience debriefing paramedics after critical incidents, Dr White developed and created a debriefing model for use in simulation practice, which has been rolled out across NSW Ambulance.
She has also been awarded an Ambulance Service Medal (ASM) for her service as a leader, mentor, counsellor and clinical specialist for call takers, dispatchers and paramedics at NSW Ambulance Service.
Dr White was joined by graduands from across the colleges of Health and Medicine; Arts, Law and Education; Business and Economics; Sciences and Engineering; and the University’s Graduate Research at ceremonies at Sydney’s City Recital Hall in April.