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International Paramedics Day 2023: A Day in the Life

Date: 08 July 2023

Time: 16:00

ride out

One of our digital communications officers, Heidi, recently joined a crew for a 12-hour shift to experience what it’s like to be on the frontline.

Beginning of the shift

I arrived at the ambulance station at around 7:30am, giving me plenty of time to go inside and collect the uniform that had been left for me, before starting my shift at 8am.

I was told I would be joining Konor and Annushka, two newly qualified paramedics. Whilst introducing ourselves, I explained why I was on a ride out and what I aimed to get out of the experience - to gain a firsthand insight of what frontline colleagues are faced with on a typical 12 hour shift.

First patient

Once the equipment checks in the ambulance had been completed, we let control know that we were ready. Shortly after, the radio blared a siren sound to indicate that we had our first call of the day. It was a category one call, with someone barely breathing. With Konor and Annushka in the front of the cab, I jumped into the back and strapped myself in, quite literally, for what was to come.

We left the ambulance station with blue lights and sirens, as more information started to come in about the call. Annushka turned around to let me know they had been told the patient was a child and at this point my heart dropped. A rapid response paramedic and student paramedic were already on scene when we arrived and so we made our way into the house, where the young patient was sat up and conscious with a nebuliser on. To say that was a relief to see would be an understatement! The child had a suspected partial airway obstruction which had been dislodged, but not removed, and was thought to also be having an asthma attack. Having drawn up the necessary medications that would be administered on the way to the hospital, the mum and her child were helped into the ambulance, and where they were dropped off to resus in the A&E department. It was safe to say that was quite a dramatic start to the shift, but after a debrief and some paperwork at the hospital, off we went to our next patient.

Second patient

This time it was a category two call for an elderly patient, who was known to have angina, suffering from chest pain. Once we arrived, the patient explained that they had been getting more frequent angina attacks recently and that they had been advised by their GP to phone 999 when they experienced one as it’s difficult to tell if someone has had a heart attack without a blood test, which would be carried out at hospital.  Before travelling to the hospital, the paramedic’s spoke to the patient about the same day emergency care (SDEC) department  which the patient might be suitable for and gave them a call to find out. Our patient did fit the criteria to go there, which would hopefully cut their waiting time by a considerable amount, compared to if we took them to A&E. Our patient was happy with this solution, and we left for the hospital with a large word search book in hand, just in case there was still a bit of a wait. Whilst at the patient’s address, it was discussed that they would benefit from having regular contact with a cardiac team at the hospital, who could put a better plan put in place for when these attacks occurred.

Third patient

Our third call of the day was another category two, this time for a patient who had fallen onto concrete whilst window cleaning. When we arrived, the patient was laying in the garden and was visibly in a lot of pain with their hip. Before we could think about moving them to a more comfortable position and then onto the ambulance, the crew needed to administer some pain relief. With the help of some morphine and gas and air, we were able to get the patient out of the flowerbed and onto a stretcher which they were very relieved about. We then took them off to the hospital for an x-ray, as well as some blood tests, and then we were back to the ambulance to get it ready for the next patient and to finish paperwork.

Fourth patient

It was whilst the paperwork was being filled out that a call came through the radio for a cardiac arrest outside the outpatient’s area of the hospital. When we got there, there were several members of hospital staff performing CPR on the elderly patient and they had started to put screens up around them, to block the view from bystanders. After a little while of trying to get their heart restarted, the doctor decided it was time to stop and after asking everyone if they agreed, the patient sadly passed away. This was a situation that I had prepared myself for in the days before the ride out, as I knew it was a possibility that we would get called out to something of this nature. I think the worst part about the experience was seeing the family members afterwards. Not only was it a reminder that this is someone’s loved one, but also that you can be going about your day as normal, and life as you know it can change very quickly.

We returned to the ambulance to fill in some paperwork and take a moment to discuss what had happened. Extra support was offered to us all, both then and at any point we might need it going forwards. At this point we headed back to the station for our meal break, and then got ready to attend our last patient of the day.

Fifth patient

Our final call was a category two for someone who was passing blood and had been experiencing losses of consciousness. Once we arrived at the address, we were told by the patient that these were similar symptoms to when they they have suffered from stomach ulcers in the past. What was different this time around, however, was the vomiting blood and passing out, which obviously made it more concerning. The patient knew this may mean a trip to the hospital and already had a bag packed in preparation. We took the patient out to the ambulance on a stretcher and off we went to the hospital. There was a slight wait to get into the hospital and as we had finished our shift by this point, we were able to handover our patient to another crew.

It was 9:15pm and we were back at the ambulance station once again and heading home after a long day of attending patients..

I feel incredibly lucky to have been given such a unique opportunity to gain a fascinating insight into the day of frontline colleagues. It’s a very eye-opening experience that makes you appreciate them even more for everything that they do.

  • Summary:

    One of our digital communications officers, Heidi, recently joined a crew for a 12-hour shift to experience what it’s like to be on the frontline.