“I could never do your job!”

Not true! I went into the Ambulance Service as a non-emergency driver for nearly the first two years of my career. I was squeamish and had no medical background. I couldn’t even watch medical stuff on TV! One night, while working overtime taking discharged patients home, I was confronted by a non-emergency driver from another large organisation. He was grey, could hardly talk, looked terrible and was asking me for help. I had no idea what to do, so I called over to the receptionist who immediately called the crash team. Now I would instantly recognise the symptoms of a heart attack, but that night hit me hard. That was when I knew I could no longer be a bystander, the one who calls for help.

I had no intentions of becoming a hero, and I can honestly say I still don’t. I was trained by road experienced veterans, who drummed any aspirations of herodom out of us very quickly, and were keen to point out that you will never know everything, that your best resources of information are the long serving colleagues you will be working with. It worries me slightly that the current breed of youngsters have a different approach. The current training across many ambulance services is an academic one. The youngsters have no life experience, and leave training (approx. 3 months at a university in most areas) better qualified “on paper” than many older staff with vast experience. Many, not all, of these youngsters seem to believe they know everything they need to, and that they have been adorned with superhero status and the powers associated with that. I still see ambulances flying through traffic with a seemingly banzai attitude, crewed by youngsters who look like they should still be in school. I often joke with ex-colleagues that these young academics could write a patient a good essay, complete with Harvard referencing, but would they be able to spot a TIA or a PE quickly enough? Would they know when it’s more important to make an elderly patient a cup of tea and spend time with them, then refer them for a home visit from their favourite GP, simply because they’re lonely, rather uproot them and take them hospital because they can’t find a problem and don’t know what else to do? Having said all that, there are some who will become fantastic emergency medics.

During my years in the service, I told myself frequently – if one person in every thousand says “thank you”, then my job has been worthwhile. Shortly before I left the service I had the most humbling experience of meeting some who’s life would undoubtably have ended without my intervention. I’ve since heard of others, relatives of friends and, while I still maintain that I was only doing the job I was trained to do, I won’t even try to explain the amazing feeling news like that gives you. Well, not in this post.

Anyway, the point of I’m trying to make, in a very long winded way, is that anyone can be an emergency medic. If you have the urge to make a difference, if you don’t like being a bystander, consider it. Sqeamishness and other such things disappear when you’re doing your job, and your training and experience kicks in. Whether you’re picking up a very large, very drunk person who’s soiled themselves and spread it up their back by rolling around, or directing other emergency services at a bad crash on a busy main road, it’s still the best job in the world

Finally, if you really want to be a hero, I suggest you join the army!

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