Industry PhD: Supporting St John Ambulance Australia (Vic) transition to online learning

A longstanding industry partnership between St John Ambulance Australia (Vic) and La Trobe Rural Health School based on research, training, employability and work-based learning opportunities, is striving for community change using purposeful and impactful research on first aid training.

St John Ambulance Australia (Vic) work for ‘the service of humanity’ and are well known for their delivery of quality first aid programs, certified courses and diplomas, event first aid, supply of products, transport services and community programs. They have several high-profile and very successful healthcare initiatives including First Aid in Schools, CPRLab and the community defibrillator program.

A silver lining to cloud that is the COVID-19 pandemic, St John Ambulance Australia (Vic) were able to pivot and deliver an accredited first aid training via online teaching, which received excellent uptake with over 25% of all bookings for online only courses. To continue delivering in this model, St John’s identified a need to re-engineer their certified First Aid and CPR training delivery models to improve learning methods through digital technologies, reduce participant cost and reduce time away from work or home due to course commitments. They also aiming to increase the overall participant rate of St John’s First Aid programs.

To solve these complex issues, a La Trobe Industry PhD program has been established that will embed a student within St John Ambulance Australia (Vic). This candidate will undertake a research study to understand the effectiveness of first aid training delivered in online classrooms through immersive and embedded learning compared to traditional in-person delivery.

David Loiacono, General Manager, Commercial Training and Sales said that every day across Victoria members of the community tragically experience cardiac arrest with only 1% in medical facilities.

‘This PhD will play a pivotal role in researching our first aid training delivery to provide vital evidence-based research that will inform the organisation and the broader community in how best to embed these skills that can save lives.’

‘At St John we are leaders in healthcare training, we set the benchmark in how to provide quality outcomes so our First Aiders can act decisively, correctly, and confidently to address these emergencies to save lives.’ Loiacono said.

By collaborating through a PhD program, industry can access La Trobe’s specialised research expertise and facilities and connect with outstanding researchers to support their critical business needs. These programs generate innovative, interdisciplinary solutions to real-life challenges, and can be tailored to industry need.

Professor Jane Mills, Dean, La Trobe Rural Health School said Industry PhD scholarships and projects provide an opportunity to learn the craft of research while making a real-world contribution to the business of an industry partner.

‘Under the expert supervision of La Trobe University academics, PhD candidates gain knowledge and skills in research as well as the substantive area of enquiry.’ Said Professor Mills.

The La Trobe Industry PhD program is accessible in a wide range of sectors and research topics, if you are interested in the St John's Ambulance opportunity, please contact Lisa Hanson,

La Trobe Industry contact: Hope Terdich,