Amy Wiggins

Amy is the lifestyles reporter for the Bay of Plenty Times.

Paramedic retires after 48 years


Tauranga's longest serving paramedic has decided to call it a day after a 48-year association with St John.

Paul Sullivan, 66, will climb aboard an ambulance for his last shift tonight.

"In all the years I've been doing ambulance work there's nothing I haven't seen. People always ask you, 'what's the worst thing you've ever seen?' but you can't answer that because for the people involved that was the worst thing for them," he said.

He signed up for the St John cadets programme as a child, received his first certificate in 1955 and began work for the Tauranga St John in 1977.

Despite his early involvement, Mr Sullivan did not always aim to be a paramedic.

He trained as a coppersmith and sheet metal worker when he left school at the age of 15 and was convinced to volunteer on the Wellington Free Ambulance while doing his apprenticeship.

Mr Sullivan spent four years volunteering before he decided to take a $4 pay cut and become a full-time staff member.

"I dropped to $36 a week but I loved the job," he said.

When he started paramedics did 24-hour shifts and worked on their own rather than in pairs.

"Things were quite different in those days. It was a male-orientated service there were no women.

"Now there are more females than males."

After six years work in Wellington, Mr Sullivan decided to move his young family to Tauranga.

The family moved at the end of 1976 and by January 1977 Mr Sullivan had a job as a paramedic.

"I've been here ever since and absolutely loved it," he said.

"I've got very fond memories of working here. It's been a great organisation to work for. I've always enjoyed coming to work."

Over the years Mr Sullivan has held a number of different roles. He became the first intensive care paramedic in the Western Bay in 1988, he has been station manager, district operations manager, manned the rescue helicopter and been involved in education.

He has been made a brother and a life member of the Order of St John.

Mr Sullivan was looking forward to spending more time with his family, travelling and fishing but will miss the job and his colleagues.

The secret to being a good paramedic was to put others first, he said.

"You've got to be an honest person. You have to have integrity. You have got to be loyal and you've got to be a hard worker. You've got to be able to put others before yourself and you've got to be able to put yourself out of it."

He will continue to do part-time work for Tauranga St John.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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