Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category

The Thin Green Line is breaking…

Posted: November 13, 2017 in Personal, Rants

You know, one thing that is never talked about in the Ambulance Service (or at least, not in as much detail as it should be) is mental health.  This is something that affects the whole of the NHS, and every emergency service – and you know, it’s time we talked about it a bit more honestly.

We don’t give ourselves enough credit for looking after ourselves, or enough time to do so.  Working in the emergency services, in the NHS, in any highly-strung and stressful environment – well, that takes its toll eventually.  There is also an attitude that develops within the Ambulance Service (and I can’t talk for other services or parts of the NHS, having never worked in them), and it’s an attitude that we speak about in hushed tones.

I’m talking about the attitude that all medics, be they technicians, paramedics, doctors, or any others, should be full of bluster and bravado.  That what we do should not affect us.  That those jobs we go to, those ones that friends and family say, “Oh, I don’t know how you do that”, that we just brush it off as part of the job without really thinking about it.  Or when you and your colleagues are sitting around in the mess room, and you happen to mention that you are having a bit of a tough time, and someone tells you to “man up”, or tells you that they’ve “been to worse, so why are you so affected by it?”

This attitude is toxic.  Plain and simple.

If we don’t encourage people to talk, to share, to actually look after themselves – well, then there won’t be anyone left to look after the public.  We’ll all be broken, shattered and exhausted shadows of our former selves.  As it is, very few ambulance staff manage to reach retirement age without being off on long term sick leave, or having resigned from the service entirely on medical grounds.  Regularly, I’ve seen days where there has been anywhere up to 25% of staff off sick long term, sometimes higher.  And the majority of those are mental health related, either directly, or because they’ve reached the end of their tether, and so find any excuse to go sick and to have a few days’ respite.

This tells me that, as staff, we are being sneered at, laughed at, and basically told that we can’t have time off if we are struggling with anxiety, depression, insomnia, various intrusive thoughts, or the pure ongoing pressure of the job being forced upon us.

A mental health problem is not always visible.  It’s not always as easy to tell someone is mentally unwell as when they have a cold, when they have a broken arm or leg, or when they have the age old ambulance D&V (diarrhoea and vomiting for my dear, innocent, non-medical readers).  So when you go into work, you don’t get people asking if you’re okay, or when you go for a sickness review meeting when you’ve been off for any longer than a week or two, your manager looks at you with a doubting look – because they can’t see that you are unwell.

THIS. NEEDS. TO. STOP.

We are losing good people, good friends, and good members of staff to this.  They are leaving the service, they are leaving the country.  They are even killing themselves.

Sorry if this isn’t the gory story you wanted it to be – but this needs to be said.

Come back next week for my own personal story about being mentally ill within the Ambulance Service.

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There are some very good campaigns being developed to encourage wider discussion on the subject of mental health in the emergency services.  Please, whatever you do, don’t suffer in silence.  Talk to someone.

The Bluelight campaign run by Mind is one of the best. Their helpline is open 0900-1800 Monday-Friday — 0300 303 5999

There is always The Samaritans as well, available 24/7 – 116 123 (from a UK landline or mobile)

 

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Numb

Posted: September 22, 2017 in Personal, Rants, Work

This is going to be a bit of a dark one, so I apologise in advance…

I attended a job, one that no paramedic ever wants to go to, despite all the bravado and bluster. I was first on scene, in what felt like a useless response car, that didn’t feel like it was going fast enough. I was on scene in far less than the now outdated 8 minute response time. The house was a powder keg of emotions – relatives screaming and crying, parents desperately trying to do what they could to help. Within what felt like half an hour, but actually was less than five minutes, I’d been able to get a Return of Spontaneous Circulation (ROSC), ably assisted by two colleagues who had burnt rubber to get their ambulance to the scene.

We took about 10 minutes on scene after this – to allow the patient to stabilise, to ensure we had not missed anything, and to gather equipment. Now…this was a point of contention between myself and my two colleagues (neither were paramedics). Indeed, this was one of the few times in my professional career to date that I have had to play the paramedic card. After these tense ten minutes, we moved to the ambulance and flew to hospital, still trying to treat the patient as best we could, my phone pinned between my shoulder and my ear to alert the hospital, and being flung around as people decided not to get out of our way.

The hospital part of this tale is irrelevant – a finely tuned, well rehearsed process, numerous pairs of hands helping out; a situation in which we in green take very little part. Afterwards, stood around the back of the ambulance drinking lukewarm coffee and looking at the detritus littering the floor and every flat surface in the back of the ambulance, you cannot help but feel numb. Numb and inadequate. Like you have not just done everything possible to fight the inevitable.

You clean up. You smile. You laugh, half heartedly it seems. You tidy, you bag the rubbish, you restock. Within ten minutes, it looks like nothing has happened – like you weren’t just trying to save a life that should have never been in jeopardy.

Everyone processes this differently. As the paramedic, the only paramedic, on scene, I went home and over thought and over analysed ever action, every decision I had made.

The next day. Well, the next day I found out that the patient had died.

The job can numb you to life, to death, to every emotion in between.

After almost four and a half years as a paramedic – should it not be easier than this?

Wow.

It has been a LONG time since I’ve posted anything here. To be honest, I’d almost forgotten about it. When I was training as a paramedic, I used this blog as a form of catharsis – I knew it was here, but I never really posted massively frequently. Since I qualified, I’ve been through a lot. But for some reason, I never needed to use this.

I’m sorry for that.

But. Change happens.

I’ve recently started university again, as a full time student, studying….

(Drum roll please)

Graduate Entry Medicine! So, all being well, I’ll be a li’l baby junior doctor in four years time.

So, I’m going to be using this blog for several things. I’m going to be posting about jobs I’ve been to over the years, and that I’m still going to, as I’m still working as a paramedic while I study. All the information from these jobs will be anonymised, and for education only. I’m also going to be talking about my journey to becoming a doctor, and hopefully can start to answer people’s questions, if I get any, about training.

So sit tight!

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.

Sometimes

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.

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.

Hey folks of the wide wonderful interwebs!

So I suddenly realised it had been AGES since I had updated this…so I thought I’d make a start by letting you know what you can expect over the next few weeks:

  • A mini-series (I hope!) on applying for and being a student paramedic!
  • Some fun stories on my first semester of lectures
  • Some interesting, some sad, and some downright bizarre stories on jobs I’ve been to on placement
  • And some other random happy stuff

In the meantime, I would like to draw your attention to a few interesting YouTube videos, on the benefits of hands-only CPR – I’ll be talking about this in more detail later this week, but have a watch, and please let me know what you think.

The British version:

And the American version:

Oh, and if you’re on Twitter – please follow me…you get inane ramblings from me when I’m in lectures or on placement, and random retweets, mostly health related! I try to keep everything roughly on subject…

So a while ago, I talked about a few of the things that annoy me – believe me, that was just a small toe dipped into the great ocean of things that annoy me, but that can wait for another time.

However, I did mention about both eating your five fruit and veg a day, and also about people who complain about not losing weight, but yet have made no changes to either their diet or their exercise regime. This came about from a discussion I was having with my brother quite a while ago, about some of the people who worked at his office. We came up with a fantastic diet plan, known as the Eat Less, Move More Plan – two easy steps. First, you eat less. Second, you move more. Simples. Or to expand ever so slightly, if you eat less than you currently eat, but are exercising more, you are going to burn more calories than you are eating – thus, the weight is lost. There are other minor details, but I believe that should work for most people.

The other thing about healthy eating that really gets to me is when I’m standing in line for the checkout at a well-known mainstream supermarket (*cough* Tescos *cough*), and I look around me and see the amount of pre-processed, pre-packaged, artificial food that people are piling into their trolleys. Particularly when I strive to have a nice healthy trolley, full of lots of fruit and vegetables, and lots of stuff that isn’t processed, that isn’t artificial, and isn’t stuffed full of salt, sugar, artificial sweeteners or other chemicals. Now, I have no problem whatsoever with the occasional guilty treat, but it should be just that – occasional. What is even more annoying is that my trolley load of, as I put it, healthy crap, will cost about twice as much as the trolley load of processed s**t, but will go out of date sooner, or go bad sooner. Even so, I still don’t have much of a problem with other mature, informed adults pumping that stuff into their body. Where I have the problem is when I see parents with children, and they have a trolley load of pre-processed stuff – so much for teaching your kids to eat healthy eh? And you can see the effect it is having on children – they are already obese due to an overload of sweets and junk food, and not enough fresh air and exercise. Do people not realise the harm that their bad habits are having on their children??

Ah well, their choice. Me, I’ll choose to eat healthily, even it costs slightly more, if it means I get to live a bit longer and without any major diseases, thank you very much. And I’ll also keep exercising like mad, mainly because I enjoy it, slightly because I want to look, but also so I’m going to be able to run around for ages like a mad maniac with my kids (whenever they happen to come along).

So, someone I follow on Twitter, and whose blog I can highly recommend, posted a while back about a Radio 1 Newsbeat article suggesting that nightclubs should have paramedics “in-house”. Read the original article here.

Now, I agree with this in principle, but in practice, the ambulance services in the UK are struggling to find enough paramedics as it is, and really, what paramedic is going to want to give up their time to be treated like crap by drunk punters in a loud and noisy nightclub, potentially for quite a bit less than they could earn by doing an overtime shift? I do, however, agree with schemes such as the SOS Bus Project in Norwich. This is a fantastic scheme that provides a central assistance and first aid service, voluntarily, in Norwich city centres on busy nights. Having had a quick flicky through their website, their initial funding information makes interesting reading. The number of different private and local public organisations that donated money to set up the project is fantastic. This ties in with a comment on the original blog post – that football clubs have to contribute to policing costs…so why shouldn’t nightclubs contribute to both police and medical costs??

As a final note, I’d like to draw your attention to a fantastic organisation – BASICS. Check out their website, and check out the website of an amazing BASICS doc!

Things that annoy me…

Posted: July 9, 2011 in Personal, Rants
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You know what – there are LOTS of things that annoy me, but these are just a few…

  • People who either don’t pull over for emergency vehicles, or worse, the people who decide to pull out and follow the ambulance or whatever past all the rest of the pulled in cars.
  • People who claim that “eating healthily is hard” or that “it’s too expensive”. WHAT. A. LOAD. OF. CRAP. This article shows that eating your five fruit and veg can come to less than 50p (yeah, I know it’s the Mirror, but hey…ooh, hang on, better article – oh wait, it’s the Daily Fail…tits.)
  • People who whine about how much they hate their job, or how much they want to do this or that other job – just suck it up, apply and get the hell out of the job you don’t want to do. It’s what I did, and yeah, it can be hard, but surely having a decent work life so you enjoy the rest of your time is better?
  • People who complain that they’re trying to lose weight but it’s not working…it’s not hard – you eat less, and move more (I should really market this as a diet plan…stay tuned!)
And I’m sure there’s more, so the list will get longer as I think about them…