Florian Breitenbach

Rettungsdienst und mehr

Museum: Anaesthesia Heritage Centre, London

Semester is over. It’s been a particularly hard slog. What better way to sit back on the couch with some chips and an episode of Top Gear? That was last night. Can’t stay indoors all day, especially when its 20 degrees (Celsius, for everyone in the US) and a beautifully sunny day in London! So I continued on my “Museum Mission”, aiming to visit all of London’s Museums of Health & Medicine.

Today, I visited the Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland (AAGBI) – more specifically, the Anaesthesia Heritage Centre. A small museum, nonetheless with some interesting exhibitions and very friendly and helpful staff.

As George Santayana wrote over a hundred years ago:

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

In other words: learn from the past. And we may as well learn from other peoples pasts while we’re at it. Apart from all the early forms of pain management (and their abuse), airway management and tools, one single thing struck me on this visit: Anaesthesia was initially poorly regarded amongst the medical profession for the first decades since its modern inception in the 1840s. Until 1935, when the Diploma of Anaesthetics was introduced, there was not even a formal way of qualifying as an Anaesthesiologist; indeed, many people who stated they were specialists in the field were ‘optimistic novices’, as Henry Featherstone, the founder of the AAGBI (in 1932) was quoted.

How do you regard the field of Anaesthetics today? Quite a complex and respectable part of medicine, I would hazard a guess.

If modern anaesthesia only began in the 1840s, that makes the entire (sub)profession approximately 170 years old. In the 1930s, when training became formalised and the AAGBI was founded to support its cause and standing, the profession had been around for around 90 years.

Let’s switch over to what this blog is all about: The wonderful world of Paramedicine. Although the concept of out of hospital care dates back to Dominique Jean Larrey in the Napoleonic Wars (around the 19th century), the first modern on road paramedics were trained in the early 1970s. That makes our profession less than 50 years old. And boy, don’t we have similar issues around the world: poorly regarded amongst other health professionals (and governments), and still some ‘optimistic novices’, amongst the unregulated profession. Sure, this was a generalisation, but parts of it are true in very many services – dig deep enough and I’m sure you will find evidence of it near you.

“So what?” I hear you say, “Time will sort it out!”. Well, time and a fair bit of effort – remember to support your profession, and the best way of doing that is by joining your professional body.

I’ll leave you with my favourite display item, a resuscitator from the 1960s. See if you can identify similarities and differences to our commonly used Bag Valve Mask from today!



Instructions for Use.

  1. Lay the patient on his back.
  2. With a finger covered with a handkerchief clear his mouth and throat of mucus and any foreign matter
  3. Kneel or stand behind his head, place the face mask on his face with the lower rim under his chin so that his jaw is lifted up. This is important.
  4. Work the bellows steadily at about 16 strokes a minute. The thrust of the bellows should be upwards on his face so that his jaw is kept up.
  5. Watch the patient’s chest. It should rise with each down stroke of the bellows and fall during each up stroke.
  6. After about every 50 strokes of the bellows, clear the patients mouth and throat of mucus with a finger covered in a handkerchief.
  7. Continue resuscitation until the patient breathes naturally, or for at least 2 hours.


I was recently interviewed by Matthew Harris for his HarrisCPD podcast. We discussed what it is like as a paramedic in Australia, the australian paramedic education system, how to become a paramedic here and the up and coming paramedic registration.

Click here to get to the podcast page and listen to it.


2012 Student Paramedic Conference

Things are revving up for this years SPA (Student Paramedic Association) Conference. This will be the third year in a row that I am going – I’ve always had a great time, met some interesting people, learnt a little more, and explored a vibrant city. There are even free passes up for grabs!

From the website:

National SPA Conference 2012

When? Saturday, August 25 2012, 9:00am – 5:30pm

Where? Victoria University City Convention Centre (Level 12, 300 Flinders Street, Melbourne, VIC, 3000)

Cost? SPA members = $60, PA Members= $80, Non-Members = $95

Registration is NOW OPEN!

Welcome to the fifth SPA National Conference 2012. This year’s intensive conference program is designed to appeal to delegates looking to attend an affordable, clinically-focused Paramedic Conference. It is guaranteed to be educational, informative and entertaining with high calibre speakers providing delegates with a plethora of knowledge, skills and information that can be utilised to advance your professional development and clinical skills.

Topics for this years conference include Acute Myocardial Infarction, Trauma, Mental Health, Advanced Life Support and a case-study reviewing a sudden cardiac arrest survival story. Morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea will be provided at no additional charge and conference delegates are invited to attend the post conference social networking session only minutes from the venue. We are once again holding our very popular charity raffle in which 100% of the proceeds go directly to Youngcare.

Conference booklet with information on parking, accommodation, sponsors, speakers, program and more will be available soon!

I hope to see you there!

Approaching the shrine of evidence

or: I’ve come a fair distance, but have a long way to go.

Just because an idea is true doesn’t mean it can be proved. And just because an idea can be proved doesn’t mean it’s true. When the experiments are done, we still have to choose what to believe.

I recently embarked on postgraduate studies. My thirst for knowledge needed quenching, and my post-graduation emptiness needed filling; I was bored and suffering intellectual directionless. These issues have been rectified with a quite interesting Postgraduate Certificate in EMS leadership and Management.

But back to topic: I remember my first dabbles amongst paramedics…the spoken word of these people surrounding me was at first unintelligible blabber of latin and greek derived technical teminology, but with time and a dictionary, I cut through most of that. I had a basic understanding, and I was proud of myself.

Then came basic skills and principles of paramedicine: I was told about these many things that paramedics do, and I took them in as “that’s what paramedics do”. The occasional question was usually answered with some scientific based background knowledge that I did not possess, but sounded more than plausible.

In my mind, I could picture the shrine of evidence.

Then I got a copy of some clinical guidelines. Thoughts similar to “They must be right, the big people on the ambulance follow them, and I’m sure a lot of time and effort went in to writing them” went through my head.

From a distance, I could see the shrine of evidence.

Then I started studying paramedicine. I entered the beautiful world of evidence based practice. “It’s in a scientific journal, it must be right! They’re scientists after all!”. And along came large Randomized Control Trials. “The peak of trials! Truth! TRUTH!”

The shrine of evidence began to glisten. Polished marbled with golden words in capital letters sparkled from it. a truly majestic and intimidating sight. Upon it written in bold letter:

“Science is evidence is truth.”

Still not completely confident with the world though, more background knowledge on this whole topic was needed, and which is why I did not adopt the above statement.

I want to get closer to the shrine, but my sunglasses aren’t dark enough to ward off the sparkling and shining.

Then my lecturer recommended to read this.

Clouds pull up. The shrine has some ugly cracks in the foundation, and…wow, part of it is built on rotten wooden stilts!

A great read from “The New Yorker” Magazine, by Jonah Lehrer (December 13, 2010).

Read, ponder, and rethink your worlds. After all, we’re all only human.

Just because an idea is true doesn’t mean it can be proved. And just because an idea can be proved doesn’t mean it’s true. When the experiments are done, we still have to choose what to believe.

Further education

As you are probably aware, I recently graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Paramedicine.

I’m also bored.

So I’m looking to advance my education. Trouble is, there is so much out there! Picking a university isn’t the only thing. It’s deciding what to study too!

Now for a little crowdsourcing, some participation from you, the reader: Any experiences/recommendation for a university or even a particular course? I’m open for any suggestion! I am primarily looking at Australian universities, but have also taken a peek at UK universities – the stratosphere is the boundary.

Feel free to leave a comment below, email me or tweet me. Thanks!