University Exams: Extreme Stress

Case Study

During the mid-year exams, a Male student aged early 20’s was completing his final exam for the semester. He was an overseas student originally from the Middle East studying Finance. University exams are typically held at the large venues throughout Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane which can accommodate up to three thousand students, all completing their end of semester exams.


  • Student is normally fit and healthy with no Hx of mental illness.
  • Foreign student from Middle East with no family currently in Australia
  • Planned to catch a flight out to Dubai the next morning
  • No other associated Hx


Whilst the student was halfway through the exam, supervisors began to observe some concerning behaviours that the student was suddenly presenting. Supervisors offered the student water and our Medic was notified of the incident.


Medic approached the student who was sitting at his exam table and observed some troubling attributes. Medic gathered a Hx of what the student was feeling and offered their assistance to try diffuse the situation.


Upon the arrival of the medic, the student was presenting with trembling legs, hyperventilation, sweating and overall agitation. Pt C/O heart palpitations, nausea, inconsolable crying, unable to concentrate, visual disturbances, and overall emotional distress.


The Colbrow Medic followed the general clinical approach and moved onto basic paramedic practice, examining the respiratory status (RSA), Perfusion status (PSA) and providing reassurance when possible.

RSA: hyperventilation, short and shallow breaths, Sp02 98%, speaking in phrases between sobs
PSA: tachycardia, emotional distress, hypertension, hot skin, pink and sweaty.

The student found comfort in being positioned in the fetal position whilst sitting in the first aid room.


Treating this patient was a challenge as there was no direct guideline to follow. This student required reassurance that nerves are a natural experience when dealing with crucial, high stress situations such as exams but required self discipline and breathing techniques to help deal with his intense feelings of anxiety to slow his body functions down. Our Medic decided to remove the student from the exam environment, relocating him to a secluded table outside of the first aid room. This ensured that some of the stressors have been removed along with being able to be observed by the medic throughout the exam.


Student returned to his exam, still anxious but able to re-enter exam mode and attempted to complete his exam. He returned to our Medic when he felt he was unable to continue and the Medic informed him of his options about Special Consideration. Being understanding, encouraging and supportive of the student throughout his mental crisis allowed him to feel that he wasn’t alone. Although the student was unable to complete his exam, the student felt comforted in the fact that there were options out there for him and that someone provided reassurance and understanding of his condition.  Colbrow Medics will provide reassurance to universities and schools throughout Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, with knowledge that their students will be receive the best of possible first aid and event medical services.