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Emergency nurse saves lives abroad

Nurse Jean-Philippe Miller in Myanmar
Photo: Nurse Jean-Philippe Miller in Myanmar
Melbourne emergency nurse Jean-Philippe Miller may have left the developing country of Myanmar but there’s little doubt his work continues to have an impact, saving lives in the country plagued by civil war.

The Alfred Hospital nurse has spoken about his missions with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), on secondment from the Australian Red Cross, where he worked as a first-aid trainer in Myanmar in 2015 and 2016 - sharing his life-saving skills and knowledge in a bid to help save lives in local communities.

Jean-Philippe also provided nursing care to people with gun shot injuries and with infectious diseases, such as malaria, typhoid and cholera, in South Sudan in 2014, while also assisting displaced people in need of general medical care.
“It was a very humbling experience and very eye-opening for me - you see a lot of cases that you don’t get exposure to in Melbourne, working in a tertiary hospital, because they’re illnesses that we just don’t come across.”

Jean-Philippe said it was his time working in Myanmar, one of the poorest countries in Asia, that was most rewarding, where he helped establish a train-the-trainer first-aid program to combat the lack of local ambulance services.

“Most lives lost in trauma as far as car accidents and things like that, they are very manageable from simple innovations,” he said.

“Someone might lose their airway, so if you can teach someone how to open an airway and transport someone to hospital, you can save their life.

“Someone might die before they get to hospital because they lose blood, so if you can teach them the first-aid of how to control and stop bleeding, you can save their life until they get to hospital.

“These very basic things are generally what makes the big difference in survival rates before people arrive to hospital, and they are things that lay personnel can do - you don’t need advanced paramedics to make that initial large difference.”

Jean-Philippe said the ICRC team trained nurses, teachers and village health care workers to be first-aid trainers.

Those trainers are now able to train others in their local communities to provide basic first-aid care.

Jean-Philippe said the team also encouraged their trainees to use local materials when providing first-aid.

“We wanted them to realise that you don’t need to have a special qualification to provide first-aid and that you don’t need a first-aid kit to provide first-aid because you can use a piece of cloth, you can use your shirt, if you need to, to stop bleeding, you can open an airway - you don’t require any special equipment for that.

“It was very much encouraging lateral thinking - encouraging initiative and trying to let people know that there’s multiple ways of doing things.”

Now studying a Masters of Public Health, Jean-Philippe aims to complete more missions for the Red Cross in the future.

And he hopes to encourage other nurses to also consider pursuing work in international health.

“If you have the interest, if you have the desire, if you have a good nursing background, whether it be surgical nursing or theatre or emergency nursing, there’s definitely opportunities out there,” he said.

“I think it can be quite hard in a workplace today to perhaps see the impact we make - I think with this overseas work, it’s that much more clear.”

The ICRC now has positions available for an operating theatre nurse, a ward nurse, and a medical logistician. All applicants must be able to speak French. Applications close February 15, 2017, at 9am.

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Karen Keast

Karen Keast is a freelance health journalist who writes news and feature articles for HealthTimes.

Karen regularly writes for some of Australia’s leading health news websites and magazines.  In a media career spanning 20 years, Karen has worked as a senior journalist in newspapers and television. She has covered the grind of daily news and worked as a politics reporter at countless state and federal elections.

Since venturing into freelance writing five years ago, Karen has found her niche in writing about the health sector for editors, businesses and corporations.

Karen has interviewed the heads of peak health organisations in Australia and overseas, and written hundreds of news and feature articles covering the dedicated work of health professionals who tread the corridors of hospitals and health services, universities, aged care facilities and practices, day in and day out.

Follow Karen Keast on Twitter @stylemywords