Ordinary Kiwis: Olivia Kayes, a Paramedic in the Making

Friday, 25 March 2022

Olivia Kayes is studying to be a Paramedic at Auckland University of Technology, as well as being a volunteer Surf Lifeguard at Red Beach Surf Life Saving Club. This profile is part of the Surf Life Saving New Zealand “Ordinary Kiwis Doing Extraordinary Things” series, which celebrates the diverse men and women who donate their time, energy and skills to saving lives on our nation’s beaches. 

For Olivia Kayes lifeguarding is a family affair. Her dad, uncle and aunties have been lifeguards at Red Beach since they were kids and they passed on the passion to Olivia who started as a Nipper when she was very young. Since then, Olivia has gone on to participate in Senior Surf Sports and is currently a Volunteer Lifeguard at Red Beach. For the past two seasons, she has also carried out the weekday patrols at Piha during the peak summer period and was recognised as the ‘Nothern Region, Junior Regional Lifeguard of the Year’ for showing the maturity and vision of a seasoned guard. 

The experience of patrolling during the summer at Piha, one of Auckland’s busiest beaches, spurred Olivia on to take up the Bachelor of Health Science in Paramedicine at Auckland University of Technology. “It definitely started from surf lifesaving. I did a whole lot of first aid awards and then got into it from there,” Olivia explains. 

Her first season doing weekday summer patrols at Piha was an eventful one, with numerous major incidents to handle, including a resuscitation and a near-drowning. One eventful day, when Olivia was on patrol, five major incidents took place, which saw Piha SLSC awarded the Northern Regional Guard Rescue of the Year. Olivia also had the opportunity to attend to lots of other smaller medical events like cuts, broken bones and dislocated shoulders. 

The training and practice Olivia has gained as a lifeguard has been a huge help in her studies.  

“I got so much experience of major incidents which really helped going into my second year because that’s when we started working on front-line ambulances. I felt like I wasn’t getting thrown under the bus when I went into the ambulance because I had to manage quite a lot of major first aid incidents at Piha in my first year, which was really helpful for going in with the paramedics.” 

Olivia is not alone in being inspired to take her medical experiences as a lifeguard into Paramedic training. In fact, many others on the course are also from a surf lifesaving background. 

Getting set to finish her studies at the end of this year, Olivia is looking to the future and deciding whether to start working as a Paramedic or to continue with further education in the medical field. 

“My plans are to either move overseas or to keep studying and do my post-grad, or study medicine and become a doctor. But the main goal is to end up on the helicopters. They do quite a wide range of things, they attend a lot of critical incidents and transport people a long way and they also do in-water rescues, search & rescue and medical events.” 

Before she completes her studies, Olivia will have the chance to work as an Emergency Medical Technician on an ambulance and she’ll be back for another season as a Council-funded guard at Piha next summer.