Posts Tagged ‘EMS’

Career choices

Posted: August 10, 2012 in Personal, Work
Tags: , , , ,

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.


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.

You know, I’ve been thinking recently what I’m getting myself into – doesn’t help that I’m essentially counting down the weeks until I start because I am so excited about it, and that what I’m doing for a job at the moment is driving me nuts! I am excited to start, I really am, but I’m also nervous and scared. Having spoken to a few people recently, the consensus is that it’s a job that very few people want to do… Now, I thought it was pretty standard – it’s a job, something that I think I’d enjoy, but now it’s making me a bit apprehensive.

And yeah, I’m counting down the weeks – 13 and a half weeks until I start by the way! But that doesn’t make it any easier. I know I worry a fair bit about things – I kinda tend to over-analyse things, plan too far in the future, and worry – people know this about me. But I’m going to be caring for people, looking after people, potentially have someone’s life in my hand – and that scares me ***less!! So does the thought of doing things like cannulating, in fact anything where I have to stick something into someone!

Meh, just needed to get that out – I like having this blog to write stuff like this, and I hope it’ll help!

Now, as far as I can remember I have always known bots of first aid. Both my parents have always been qualified first aiders, and when I was a lot younger, I was part of a snorkelling club, and later moved onto a scuba diving club – weird organisation, I know! But a huge element of both clubs was first aid, and so I’ve always known the basics of DR ABC, CPR, and how to deal with choking, bleeding etc etc.

However, I don’t understand how when someone is hurt, injured or otherwise incapacitated, that someone can just stand by and do nothing…more than this, I definitely don’t understand the people who, when a call taker in Ambulance Control is giving instructions for CPR or basic first aid, people REFUSE to do it.  Surely if you can take the opportunity to try and save someone’s life, or at least give them a better chance until the ambulance arrives, you would?! Or is that just me??

So this brought to mind the recent St John Ambulance advertising campaign to make people more aware of basic first aid techniques, the type of skills that could save someone’s life very easily. Below are a few videos from the campaign, and please, if you are not first aid qualified or you don’t know much about first aid, PLEASE follow the advice and learn some skills.

There are so many organisations that train first aid, including St John Ambulance, British Red Cross, and lots of national and local organisations and independent trainers.

PLEASE, if you don’t know any first aid, do a course, even just the half day or one day courses! And also, if the day ever comes that Ambulance Control ask you to do basic first aid, CPR or similar, listen to the advice, and follow it. What you do will not hurt the patient anymore, and will almost probably increase their chances of surviving – you could make the difference between life and death!

Thank you!

—- 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 —-