From 11th to 21st August, Johanniter Germany provided first aid and medical cover for participants and spectators at the European Championship in Munich. From 14th August on, Peter Clark, a volunteer of St John Ambulance, joined his German colleagues for the biggest sports event in Germany since the 1972 Summer Olympics. The European Championships featured nine Olympic sports: Athletics, Beach Volleyball, Canoe Sprint, Cycling, Gymnastics, Rowing, Sport Climbing, Table Tennis and Triathlon. Here is what Peter Clark reports:

Picture by St John Ambulance

“I had the opportunity to spend some time abroad at university and found out then how enriching and eye-opening exchanges can be, so when I saw that I could also do it through JOIN, it was never any question that I should put my name forwards. From my experiences in England, it’s the big events that require a lot of resources and expertise that we manage where our ability to provide the highest level management and patient care stands out the most; this was certainly an experience that was matched in the beautiful city of Munich. I had the great fortune to witness and get involved in the delivery at two events, the European Championships 2022 and the Munich concert by the popular German singer Helene Fischer, the latter being arranged during my stay. It was brilliant to see the similarities and differences in the ways that various challenges and demands were faced, such as patient access and location (one thing I found particularly fascinating was the various and widespread use of motorbikes by the Johanniter and then Bavarian Red Cross (BRK), something not really utilised in the UK to the same degree), command and control, the setting up and management of treatment centres, the kit that members used, the ways that different people’s expertise were put into use and even the uniform that people wear.

I wanted to make the most out of the opportunity so I signed up for a range of shifts at different sites for different disciplines (canoe, track and field, beach volleyball and more), which came with the additional benefits of working not just with Johanniter (from Munich and beyond) but the BRK medics and Wasserwacht (who perform similar tasks to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI)). The German EMS system utilises doctors and paramedics differently, and I was able to gain some extraordinary insights and speak to some fantastic clinicians about their experiences.

I wanted to make the most out of the opportunity so I signed up for a range of shifts at different sites for different disciplines (canoe, track and field, beach volleyball and more), which came with the additional benefits of working not just with Johanniter (from Munich and beyond) but the BRK medics and Wasserwacht (who perform similar tasks to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI)). The German EMS system utilises doctors and paramedics differently, and I was able to gain some extraordinary insights and speak to some fantastic clinicians about their experiences.

The greatest thing about St John organisations in every country is the warmth, kindness and camaraderie of our people, and so it was very easy to build connections with the staff and volunteers and it never felt like I was unwanted baggage, even after a 16 hour shift on my final night. Despite my best efforts my German language skills remained abysmal, thankfully however I was fully supported by people who could act as translators (as well as some English speaking patients), allowing me to get involved in multiple patient’s care and be more than just an observer. If I am able, I would definitely be interested in doing another swap and have been shamelessly plugging to my German colleagues to come over to England so we can reciprocate the boundless hospitality and generosity that I’ve been shown, and likewise would encourage any and all ranks and roles that can get involved to do so as you certainly won’t regret it!”