How ANZSOG’s Executive Master of Public Administration helped Ambulance Victoria’s Terry Marshall respond to COVID-19

Image of an Ambulance from Ambulance Victoria
  • Published Date: 08 June 2021

In the Ambulance Service they say ‘seconds count’ - so you need to get it right because sometimes you don’t get a second chance.

Ambulance Victoria (AV) is a high-performing organisation and one of the most trusted in the state. It has been Terry Marshall’s professional home for 35 years, but his decision to take up the challenge of ANZSOG’s Executive Master of Public Administration (EMPA) has given him the confidence to take his leadership to a new level.

“The Ambulance service has 6000 paramedics serving the Victorian community. We need managers who are working at the highest level, and the EMPA course is at a very high level,” he said.

It was a stroke of bad luck which ultimately sparked Terry’s interest in his chosen career path.

“I always knew I wanted to be a paramedic and when I was injured playing football and taken to the hospital in an ambulance I just knew it was the career for me. It was my light bulb moment”.

Terry said the organisation has changed a lot during his career “especially over the last 10-15 years”.

“Our work has become more complex. It has transformed from a situation where people would call us only when they needed us, to being an integral part of Victoria’s health care system.

“We need to get the right resource to the right patient in the right timeframe and transport them to the right facility. We’ve been entrusted with the care of our community, and we have to make it the best it can be every single time.”

But it's not just transporting patients from A to B, there is a personal aspect that accompanies the clinical.

“A high level of trust exists between AV and the community we serve. This is something that we protect, are proud of and grateful that we have. Often we are required to support the elderly in the early hours of the morning. We are aware that this can be a very stressful time for the patient. So we are trusted with gathering their personal belongings, keys, wallet, locking the door and popping out the cat.

“It is not just about the clinical aspect but also about the personal aspect which includes the part where we provide comfort, care, understanding, kindness, compassion and empathy.

“This all takes a lot of organisation and a lot of science and research into how to manage patients, as well as the difficulties associated with managing any large organisation.”

A lifetime of service

Terry is the Regional Director in the Barwon South West region of Ambulance Victoria. He has worked in most parts of the organisation from frontline paramedic, rostering, communication, education and management areas.

With the support of Ambulance Victoria, he was given the opportunity to undertake the ANZSOG’s EMPA course which he started in 2019.

“I was keen to do some further education and wanted to do something that was current and relevant to my current position. Doing the EMPA was great for my confidence, it made me think on a different level, especially about the environment that I operate in, and also meeting some fantastic people along the way,” he said.

“The best thing was working as a team, and the importance of this. It highlighted to me that when you build a team and operate effectively the team is so much more than its individual parts.

“The key to the course was working together, establishing the ground rules of working together, effective planning and being accountable and responsible for your actions in contributing to the group’s overall performance.”

He said that the range of courses and ideas was inspiring and the opportunity to do a Work-Based Project (a major group project on a topic nominated by a government department) was worthwhile.

“Our topic on assessing the national investment in biosecurity was a fantastic opportunity to talk to very senior people in the biosecurity field throughout Australia. It was such an interesting topic to undertake during the peak of the pandemic.“

Listening, analysing and tackling COVID

At the start of 2020 Ambulance Victoria – like many other organisations – had to adapt quickly as the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

“Prior to COVID, every winter Ambulance Victoria would develop a winter flu strategy and worked closely with health care facilities and the government. However COVID was like nothing that we had previously seen, highly infectious, and tragically highly lethal,” Terry said.

“Like other organisations we had supply chain issues with PPE, a lot of our processes needed to be reviewed, a COVID management team was established and experts in their field were brought in to support and advise the organisation.”

As a regional director, Terry was part of the organisation’s centralised response to COVID.

“The key to the success of the organisation response to COVID was the establishment of the COVID management team that was established by our Executive Director of Clinical Operations. This centralised our response to the pandemic and dealt with all issues that impacted on the organisation reporting directly to the executive.

“Of course, Ambulance Victoria’s response to the pandemic was on top of the normal workload that we respond to such as car accidents, cardiac, respiratory and medical events.

“I am incredibly proud of our paramedics and the way they responded to provide care to the community they serve. Many were concerned about the disease and the impact it might have on them and their family.”

He said Ambulance Victoria put everything into the safety of its paramedics, with a strong emphasis on PPE, donning and doffing of this equipment and cleaning of the ambulances, which could be done six or seven times a shift.

“This put huge stresses on the organisation but, you know what, there’s a difference between what you think you can do, and what you actually can do, and you will often be surprised at how much you can achieve. When you have a challenge like this the organisation was able to find a way to respond to the challenge appropriately.

“Ambulance Victoria is a resilient organisation. We know that there is no one else to do the work that we do, so we step up and do it. Across the board our people, our paramedics and managers rose to the challenge.”

He said that the EMPA had helped him to deal with difficult situations such as the impact of COVID and work his way through problems.

“I am more comfortable now dealing with complex issues and more willing to express my views on issues as they arise, maybe it is a confidence thing, but I do feel more confident in myself after completing the EMPA course.

“I think I listen more intently to others trying to understand their point of view, being more open to what I am being presented with and more will to change my point of view.

“I’ve also become much more analytical with information presented to me – and asking ‘what is the story I am being told’? The course encourages you to question things, and to understand their impact, and to consider options. All that analysis and reviewing that you do as part of the assignments helps you step up to another level.”

He said that he would encourage anyone to do the course, not just for the learning but for the network of people I have met and the friends I have made.

“The best thing has been the group of people I got to know, outstanding individuals, gifted I think in so many ways. You can talk to people in different areas about issues that you’ve got and get a totally different perspective on the situation.

With the EMPA finished he is now focused on helping Ambulance Victoria respond to the long-term challenges of COVID and the extra stresses it will place on our health system.

“I’m still passionate about what I’m doing. It’s been a privilege to be part of it, and to be serving the community of Victoria.”

Applications are open for the Executive Master of Public Administration.

The Executive Master of Public Administration (EMPA) degree is an intensive two-year post-graduate degree delivered with our partner universities and taught by renowned academics.

Despite the unprecedented challenges and upheaval across our government and university sectors caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, ANZSOG ensured continuity in delivery standards and sustained enrolment numbers in an online format throughout 2020. The experience in 2020 provided a solid foundation for another strong cohort from across our member governments in 2021. Applications for EMPA 2022 are now open.

The goal of the EMPA is to take people with high levels of public sector ‘content knowledge’ and provide them with the critical thinking and craft skills and tools they need to take the next crucial step in their careers. Find out more:

SUBMIT AN EMPA APPLICATION

SUBMIT AN EMPA EXPRESSION OF INTEREST

Want to find out more? Speak to one of our alumni ambassadors.