Archive for the ‘Rants’ 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.

——————————————————————–

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)

 

Advertisements

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?

Hard shift

Posted: June 8, 2012 in Rants, Work
Tags: , , , ,

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.

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).

Things that annoy me…

Posted: July 9, 2011 in Personal, Rants
Tags: , , , ,

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…

Is it just me, or is our damn stupid British weather changing a lot more frequently? One moment, bright sunshine and the next, lashing rain…

We must be the only country in the world that suffers from a weather system with Attention Deficit Disorder… (credit must go to the Now Show on BBC Radio 4 for that one!)

—- There now follows a diversion from our regular programming —-

Ok, so first and foremost, I want to apologise to anyone reading this who was exposed to the horror of either 7/7, or the horrendous shootings in Cumbria and Northumbria, but I cannot let this go without having a rant.  Anyone in the emergency services, and particularly the ambulance service will know what I’m on about, even if they don’t agree with me.  Before you judge me for this…please bear in mind that in just over two and a half years I will be a fully qualified paramedic on the streets, and in a little over 6 months, I will be a student paramedic.  This is as much for me as it is for you. I welcome all comments, but please keep them civil and remember that I, and those who work for the ambulance service are people, just like you.

Nearly 6 years ago, a group of terrorists decided it would be a good idea to blow up a few underground trains and a bus, cause carnage across central London, leave hundreds, if not thousands, of people dead and injured, or emotionally affected.

In June 2010, a man by the name of Derrick Bird decided to go on a rampage, killing his brother, family solicitor, a colleague and 9 random people on the streets, injuring several others, before killing himself.

Just over a month later, in July 2010, Raoul Moat, recently released from prison, killed one person, and injured two others, including a police officer who was permanently blinded.

In the months and, in some cases, years that have followed these cases and others like them, inquests have been conducted to look at the circumstances surrounding the incident, whether it could have been prevented, and the response to the incident.  I am not going to comment on the surrounding circumstances or whether it could have been prevented – those are issues for people who are more in the know than myself to discuss.  The general public are very rarely aware of ALL of the details surrounding cases such as these, particularly in a case of terrorism, so I try my hardest to have no views one way or the other on the issue.

What I cannot let pass without comment are the statements and recommendations by the coroners and the chairs of the inquests into these incidents. An article on Daily Mail Online describes some of the coroner’s statements. David Roberts, coroner at the inquest said “it was disturbing that paramedics were prevented from reaching the injured because of red tape which cost vital minutes” and an unnamed senior police officer said “The public have a right to expect the emergency services to put themselves at risk to help them”.  Now don’t get me wrong, I do believe that paramedics should put themselves at reasonable risk to help a patient, and in some cases, the paramedic can carry out a dynamic risk assessment and decide whether to put themselves or colleagues at risk, within the constraints of policies set out by their ambulance service. However, I do not believe that paramedics should be required to put their lives at risk to enter a hostile area when specifically told not to by control. Whether this is down to guidelines laid out by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) or the ambulance service, I don’t know but for the press, and the public to blame such situations on ‘health and safety’ is not correct.

The other point I draw from this is Assistant Chief Constable Simon Chesterman stating “I think the public have a right to expect the emergency services to put themselves at risk to protect them”.  I don’t know about anyone else, but when I made the decision to train as a paramedic, I fully understood the risk of being verbally and physically abused by aggressive patients, who are maybe the worse for drink or drugs, but at no time did I decide that I wanted to put myself at risk of being shot, stabbed or blown up. That has never been the role of the ambulance service, and I sincerely hope it never becomes the role of the ambulance service. Police officers are issued with body armour, incapacitating spray and batons, and are trained to protect themselves. They sign up knowing the risks and being aware of the fact that they could get injured or killed in the line of duty. Paramedics are lucky if they get body armour to protect themselves from a needle-wielding drug addict. Most paramedics get steel toe-capped boots and that’s it. No training. No extra equipment. And aware of the fact that injuries may occur but hopefully few and far between and not because they’ve put themselves at risk of being shot or stabbed whilst tending to a patient.

Having said all that, if I was ever asked to put myself in that position, or the position that ambulance personnel found themselves in on 7/7, I would like to think that I would do my job, and try and save as many peoples lives as I can, regardless of the risk to myself. After all, that’s what the job is about isn’t it? Saving lives, not paperwork, policy and guidelines.

It may seem like I’m ranting and well…I am. However, statements made by coroners and senior police officers I can just about understand – they are trying to address such problems as communications between emergency services, and maybe over-zealous safety policies from ambulance services. But what I cannot understand is the attitude of some of the members of the public who are both quoted in media articles such as this, and the members of the public who comment on the online version of these articles. One such person drew comparisons between paramedics and soldiers fighting in Afghanistan. Sorry, but last time I looked, paramedics do not sign up to getting shot at, bombed, and attacked every single day, whereas every member of the armed forces did.

My last little contribution to this is a quote from Peter Mulcahy, head of North West Ambulance Service, who said it is “wholly inappropriate and unreasonable to send unarmed and unprotected staff into an area where a gunman was on the loose. Ultimately Parliament has made the decision for NWAS (North West Ambulance Service) because it would breach various health and safety statutes. Failing to follow these instructions could result in the trust being prosecuted for corporate manslaughter.”

If you want to read more about the inquests into the 7/7 bombings, the Cumbria shootings or the Northumbria shootings, please take a look at the links. And please spare a thought and a prayer for those who were lost in these incidents, and others like them, and the families and people that they affect.

Very much recommended reading – PC Rathband meets the paramedics who saved his life, and a quote from one of them “What we came across was horrific – the amount of blood loss meant we had to act really fast, we didn’t give a second thought to what was out there and what dangers we could have faced.” I believe this quote reflects the opinion of the majority of paramedics and technicians in the ambulance service, and proves that what prevents them from doing their job properly is policy and guidelines.

PS: I’m not even going to get started on this

—- We now return you to our regular programming —-