Career choices

Posted: August 10, 2012 in Personal, Work
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As I said last night – I’ve wanted to be a paramedic longer than I can remember. It’s been a career that has always appealed – I’ve never wanted a 9-5 job, I’ve always wanted to help people, and I’ve always wanted to be the guy who drives to work in the morning, or is on the train, and I look around, and know that I’m different to everyone else.

But equally – I love the anonymity the uniform provides. I love that I can see a patient and potentially make a difference in their life, or ease the pain for them or their family, but that as soon as I walk away, they won’t remember my name, just that someone in green was there to help them when they needed it. Every patient means something to me. I have notebooks with brief details in on every patient I’ve seen so far – it helps with reflection and learning, but also makes me realise how crazy work can be.

But so far, through all the jobs that I did during my undergraduate degree, and all the other jobs I’ve had – I’ve still always wanted to be a paramedic. And it feels right, I feel like it’s the place that I fit.

Though recently – some people have been questioning why I’m happy “just being a paramedic”. I’ve encountered this attitude both at work, and out of it. I’m sure I’m capable of going further, training as a doctor, as people suggest. But why? That would defeat the whole point of becoming a paramedic. Of being on the frontline, just me and a crewmate, dealing with whatever the shift throws our way. Of adapting and improvising to treat the patient as effectively as possible. Of being an ever present anonymous guy in a green uniform, there for when people need us, 24/7/365.

Yes, I want to push myself further in my career, but still remaining a paramedic. I want to specialise, I want to push the ambulance service forward. Heck, I want to push MYSELF forward. But, at the end of the day, I always want to be a paramedic.


Posted: June 25, 2012 in Personal, Work
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Sometimes you need to smile.

Sometimes you need to laugh.

And sometimes…you need to cry.

We cry because we care. We cry because what we do means so much to us. And we cry because we’re human.

When that day comes that you don’t cry…that’s the day you need a career change.

So…you want to be a paramedic? Really? Ok, take 5 minutes, go have a freezing cold shower, and come back if you’re sure!

Oh, you came back. Well, if you’re sure…

Sit down, young padawan, and I will explain everything…

I’m not going to kid you around – being a paramedic for most NHS ambulance trusts in the UK involves working 50% of your time on nights, otherwise known as “unsocial hours”. For this, you do get paid 25% extra, but you also completely naff up your sleeping pattern and you find that you spend most of your social time with other emergency service workers, or other healthcare workers. Get used to it.

Being a paramedic isn’t glamorous. It isn’t a job where you can grab the glory. It isn’t a job where people you help will remember your name for the rest of their life. It involves working all hours of the day, potentially outside, potentially in the rain and mud on the side of a road, potentially getting verbal and the occasional physical abuse thrown your way.

Being a paramedic, at least for the NHS in the UK, does not pay well. Read that one again kids. It. Does. Not. Pay. Well. But I’m hoping you ain’t in it for the money.

On the flip side, and this is the important part – being a paramedic is very rewarding. You get to help people, and you see life at it’s very extremes. When people come into the world, and when they leave. You can tell a family that their loved one is going to be ok, and see the smiles and relief on their faces, and you can tell a family that their loved one has died, and see the grief and hurt on their face.

You get a fantastic team of partners, crewmates and colleagues, who will always be there for you, both in work and out of it, who will always help you, always step up, and always watch your back. They may rip the piss out of you mercilessly, but they will always do everything they can for you. And when you’re in the shit and call for help – the police cavalry will come bursting through the door in minutes to get your back, as you will for them when they get injured.

You get to drive incredibly fast in something big, and occasionally powerful, with lots of blue flashing lights on top that makes a lot of noise. Don’t underestimate this – it’s helluva lot of fun.

And finally – you get to go home at the end of the shift, no matter how crappy it was, and know that somehow, even if it doesn’t feel it, you made a difference to someone’s life today.

Stay tuned for part 2 – how to do it, and part 3 – how to cope!

Peace, love and hugs.

Hard shift

Posted: June 8, 2012 in Rants, Work
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I love my job. I really do. I’ve wanted to be a paramedic for longer than I can remember.

But, sometimes…

Shifts suck. And you need to beat the crap out of a punchbag.

Hey folks – welcome back!! (more for my benefit than yours…)

Sorry about the extended absence…life, placement and other work have taken over my life the past few months. Things have settled down now, so time for an update for you folks!

  • I passed my year 1 OSCE’s – trauma, medical, ILS and shock-non shock – and got some dang good feedback!
  • I passed all of my assignments that have been handed in – LVF and reflections
  • Handed in my placement folder…
  • …so all that’s left is to get placement hours by end of July, and I’VE PASSED FIRST YEAR!

So yeah, I’m back on track, back to being here, and also making some damn good changes in my own life – hopefully more news on that soon-ish.

–Continued from here

When we last met, dear reader, I was bricking it as I saw a Lifepak flying at my head…my life, my future, the Lifepak, all passing in front of my eyes!

Luckily, we were able to catch it, and our catastrophically burnt patient started shouting and swearing at us to “F*CK OFF OUTTA ME ‘OUSE”. So we did. And fast.

Back in the relative safety of a response car, I had the privilege to witness my first report of a vulnerable adult over the phone. 30 minutes later, and we were able to head back to station, and I was able to reflect on what I’d let myself in for. After many more houses and patients like that, I still wake up every morning for shift with a smile on my face, and I still enjoy it, and I hope I will for years to come.

Assignments (again…)

Posted: January 27, 2012 in University
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Just a quick note, for those of you who read my post about my first semester

I have passed my last essay from last semester, with a score of 75…that’ll do!! Now got to focus on this semester, got two reflections about cases I encounter on placement to write, an essay, and a multiple choice exam – so just a few pieces of work to worry about.

Now to go and get ready for a 7 til 7 night shift tonight! Wish me luck, and keep reading!

My very first job as a paramedic was an eye opener, and an experience that will probably stay with me the rest of my career, just as my first cardiac arrest will. Though this will stay with me, not because I saved a life, not because it was a massive RTC, not because it was any gory trauma, but because I saw and experienced first hand the abuse that the ambulance service suffer every day.

It was my first placement shift, and I had just got on station and met my mentor. Learnt where the toilets are, where the brew facilities are (important stuff, y’know?!), and learnt all about the equipment we carry and what my mentor wanted me to do to help him when we were with patients. After about half an hour, we got a job…a mile or so away from the station. Jumped in the car, blues on, sat nav (B***H in a box!) telling us where to go. Hoofed it up the road, around a few roundabouts and down the street she told us to take. Flicked the halogen alley lights on, found the house number, and parked up. Got out, grabbed some gloves and the bags – feeling like a packhorse as I get loaded up! Walked up to the door…

On the door is a lovely hand written sign – “I’ve got CCTV, I can see you”. A shared “what the…?” with my mentor, and rang the bell. Walked in to find a rather rotund gentleman sitting quite happily in the first of many ridiculously shabby and messy houses I’ve seen. The smell of cigarette smoke clings to everything, and the reek of vomit and booze is in the air.  My mentor asks what’s wrong. “I’ve burnt meself” is the reply. He lifts his t-shirt to show a first degree burn, if that, smaller than the size of a CD, on his stomach. I go out to the car to get the dressings bag, and I tear open a burn dressing, my eyes watering at the smell of the house, and put it onto his burn. As we’re about to finish our paperwork and leave, Mr Housekeeper pipes up “I’ve got chest pain”, “My stomach hurts”, “I can’t walk”, “me doctors useless”.  For those not in the ambulance service, as soon as someone says they have chest pain, we have to take it seriously, and most of the time, take the patient to hospital.

But no, he doesn’t want to…in fact, he’s adamant he’s not going anywhere with us “PRICKS!”. He insists he can’t walk, he needs his wheelchair to go to hospital. But he won’t let us do any form of examination – no ECG, no history, nothing. He stands. He looks at us. Suddenly he reaches down, picks up our Lifepak (defib and ECG) and suddenly hurls it at our heads.

–To be continued–

When it’s time…

Posted: January 26, 2012 in Work
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A collapse, simple job, check the patient over and maybe send him in for a check up…

As we speed along the dual carriageway, an update over the radio “patient is in cardiac arrest, no CPR being carried out”.

The car suddenly speeds up as my mentor jams the pedal to the floor, wheels squealing as we tear round roundabouts and corners, through junctions and over bridges to get there even faster.

We arrive on scene, leave the lights running, grab our bags and jog into your house, following the screams and hysterical crying into the living room. One look and we can tell your husband isn’t breathing, his lips and ears blue, eyes lifeless. We pull him out of the corner, rip his shirt open and I start on chest compressions as my mentor starts breathing for him. Counting under my breath “28…29…30”. We slap the pads on his chest, look at the monitor to see the crazy lines of his heart quivering in ventricular fibrillation (VF). Charge the defibrillator and shock him, energy coursing through his chest, making his limp body stiffen for less than a second, and then back to pounding away on his chest, feeling ribs crack under my palms, feeling his chest give way.

A crew arrive to back us up, and he is cannulated, adrenalin, amiodarone and fluids all coursing through his body, desperately trying to start his heart again. You’re in the kitchen, crying with your daughter and son-in-law, as we desperately fight to save the life of your husband. We scoop him onto a stretcher and run out to the ambulance, and I’m grabbed into the back and we accelerate off, flying over bridges so fast I swear the wheels and my feet leave the ground, as I desperately try to keep his blood moving around his body.

We arrive at hospital, shock you once more, and a doctor tells us to stop…he listens to the chest, looks at the screen, and decides to call it. As we tidy up, you arrive with your family in my mentor’s car and you’re taken inside to talk to the doctor. I get out, go and get my lunch that was bought just before we got the job, and sit down with a cup of tea. My mentor comes out, gives me a grin, and we head back to station to tidy up and re-stock.

I’m sorry we came running into your house.

I’m sorry I didn’t ask your name.

I’m sorry we couldn’t save him, your toyboy, after you’d been married almost 60 years.

And I’m sorry that it’s only just hit me, and made me think.

We did everything we could, tried everything possible, and fought the only way we know how to save his life.

So at university, apparently you have these things called lectures – who knew?!

For 9 weeks, from September til… (checks calendar) November, we had all sorts of lectures, some of which were useful, some…not so much! For those of you reading this who are on the course with me – you know who you are, and you know which lectures I mean!

We then had the wonders of OSCE’s… If you haven’t done any sort of medical training, you’ll have been spared the nightmare of OSCE’s, or Objective Structured Clinical Examinations (basically, practical exams), but they are either skill based or scenario based, and apparently videoed, and we had to prove that we could inject a plastic buttock with water, do a manual blood pressure (which I have yet to see done ‘on the road’), do a basic set of observations, stab someone’s finger to do a blood glucose test (didn’t actually stab a finger, just talked it through), demonstrate how to manage an airway, and show that we can lift things… Oh joy. Luckily for me, and unluckily for my future patients, I passed! Though more on them later…

Oh, and during all this – the wonders of assignments and essays. All of which, I am pleased to say, I have passed (though still waiting for the marks for one last essay I submitted just before Christmas…so maybe not).

And then out on placement, being driven very fast, powersliding round roundabouts at 2 in the morning, going about 90mph or so. Muchly fun, and highly recommended – for those who have blue lights on their cars! Hopefully I’ll be doing my emergency driving course in the summer and so will be let loose on blue lights in September time…watch out!