GAF Story

Andrew McLeod-Warner

Australian Catholic University
Bachelor of Paramedicine

Andrew McLeod-Warner, ACU scholar. Man in paramedic uniform smiling.

Bachelor of Paramedicine student Andrew McLeod-Warner reflects on the changes COVID-19 has brought to his study and home life and gives advice for other scholars or alumni looking after children during social distancing.

How did you feel when you were awarded a George Alexander Foundation scholarship?

I really, truly feel blessed that I have received this scholarship. By helping me through this degree please know that your generosity will live on and others will benefit from my work as a paramedic. Your choice to select me as a beneficiary will literally save lives. 

I now know that my university journey is the right path. Being part of The George Alexander Foundation community confirms that feeling even more so. The scholarship feels like a badge of honour, it’s the same feeling when you put on a uniform – a sense of proud ownership and belonging.  

What will a George Alexander Foundation scholarship make possible during your time at university?

It has really changed my life. The compounding stressors of work, university and family were edging towards a cliff. I wish someone had taken a photo of my face when I saw the $7500 in our bank account – it must have been priceless. Seeing the scholarship funds there was like a cloud lifting from my head. Only the day before I was buying Coles vouchers with Zip Money payments so I could buy food for the kids.

I was also able to afford the Littmann Cardiology IV stethoscope – just add willing participants (the kids) “Lubdub. Lubdub. Lubdub. Lubdub” (Heart sounds).

What motivated you to study for a Bachelor of Paramedicine?

It has been a progressive journey of discovery. I have always enjoyed helping and giving to others. My emotional awareness for doing good has greatly enhanced my professional growth and influenced my decision to enrich my life with positivity. These positive experiences within the workplace encouraged me to seek additional ways I could enrich people’s lives. This has now led me to push my boundaries even further. As a paramedic, I will have the ability to make a positive change. I can justify beyond a doubt that I am doing my part for the common good by obtaining a chance to make a difference and to help others.

What does your course involve in a typical week? 

It is not as exciting as you might think. Pre COVID-19 my day would start at 5.30 am with a 2-hour train journey, followed by back-to-back lectures, tutorials and practical classes. I would get home around 6 pm thinking, “what the heck just happened”. On a lucky day, I might get a chance to grab a Vietnamese BBQ pork roll just before my connecting train at Hornsby; my stomach just rumbled thinking about that.

We have just had our paramedic laboratory upgraded, and we are the first cohort to use it. ACU has excellent practical classes, with only 15 students in each 2-hour session. We have been doing extensive cardiopulmonary resuscitation, including advanced airway control, and we have been getting to know the mannequins very well! We also have up to five 2nd or 3rd-year mentors helping us during the labs. It really is a fabulous learning space and gives us the ability to build a well-established paramedic student community.

We have excellent community groups such as NORSPA (North Sydney Student Paramedic Society), NORSPA PJE (Pharmacology, Journal and Electrocardiogram) Club and numerous groups and representatives all advocating for us and keeping us connected. It truly is a wonderful experience.

How are you going in the current COVID-19 pandemic?

I have lost both my jobs, but to be honest, it feels like I am on holiday. It is lucky my wife is still working. She works in the microbiology department at the local hospital, probably the busiest place on earth! It has been financially stressful but once the JobKeeper payments start we will be fine.

The transition to online learning has been relatively seamless. There are dedicated virtual drop-in sessions if you are struggling. Teachers have been excellent with communication and understanding that extensions may be needed for assessments. There have also been rubric adjustments to reflect on the altered teaching environment. I have been very impressed. 

Any tips for taking care of yourself during social distancing you want to share with the GAF community? 

For anyone with kids, I would say to relax the rules at home. The last thing you need is for your own family space to turn into a battleground. Try and have fun and communicate. 

What are your goals for the future? 

I would like a long, fulfilling career as a paramedic and a healthy, fulfilling family environment.

After watching the latest ECG Club Zoom session run by 3rd-year students, I have decided I want to be able to read electrocardiograms like a book. I want to advance my skill level in ECG diagnosis up to a cardiologist level – shoot for the moon! I joined St John Ambulance just before the COVID-19 pandemic started. Eventually, I am hoping to give my skills back to the community once we can gather again.