What I learnt from my 10 hour paramedic shift
PUBLISHED: 19:00 24 December 2018 | UPDATED: 20:19 24 December 2018
As paramedics geared up for one of their busiest nights of the year, reporter MEGAN ALDOUS accompanied them on the notorious “Black Friday” shift to see the pressures they face first-hand.
It is famed for being one of the busiest nights of the year, when people head out to pubs and bars to celebrate Christmas in style.
And for paramedics Kim Sage and Emily Fisher, it is just as busy - not because they are out enjoying themselves, but helping others to stay safe while they mark yuletide.
The pair were braced for a hectic night as they embarked on the 6pm to 6am shift - and although going out to four calls and only getting one 45min break might sound like a tough day for some, it was distinctly less busy than they were expecting.
Yet as I joined them for 10 hours of their shift, it was clear they and their colleagues face tremendous pressures which they deal with heroically day in, day out.
The first call we attended was due to the patient overdosing. After a home assessment, the patient was checked in to hospital.
Emily said: “The rise in mental health issues keeps going up and we have seen a big increase in younger patients.”
After each call-out, paramedics have to fill out paper and electronic forms. The paperwork needs to have details of the patients’ symptoms, their blood pressure, oxygen levels and why they attended.
For the second call, we were sent out to a mother who was concerned with how her child was breathing. After a home assessment and giving reassurance to the parent, we left.
The third call was from members of the public who were worried about an intoxicated male who they saw walking close to a main road.
We attended but the male did not want our help, so we left the scene.
The last incident was due to a patient having an unexplained eye problem, resulting in her needing to be hospitalised.
While we were out and about, I was able to ask Emily and Kim how they deal with certain issues.
Emily explained that when it comes to dealing with death, everyone handles it differently.
She said: “The family of those who pass away are normally understanding but it’s important you don’t get too emotionally attached if not you’re going to burn yourself out, but it’s so individual.
“Some things that upset me could be easy for others to deal with and vice versa. But naturally if you have distraught family members, it makes it that much more emotional for you whereas if they are calm and expecting it it’s easier to move forward.”
A big problem the service is that people calling 999 when what they are experiencing is not an emergency.
Emily added: “People aren’t always proactive. They use the ambulance service to try and get lifts and to get us to pick up medication for them.
“A lot more needs to be done on education. That’s the only way people are going to know who to call and what for.
“Sometimes you get to calls and people haven’t taken their own tablets, they don’t self-care and don’t need hospital or want to go to hospital.
“The public are starting to know the buzz words to say in order to get an ambulance quicker, so they’ll say they have certain symptoms even if they don’t have them because they know it will make them a higher priority.
“However what isn’t our version of an emergency might be to them, so we have to bear that in mind.”
The public should only call 999 if someone is seriously ill, injured or their life is at risk.
Examples of medical emergencies include cardiac arrest, chest pain, heart attack, fitting, stroke symptoms, someone collapsing, someone being unconscious, serious injury, severe burns/scalds, choking, drowning and severe allergic reactions. You can read more on when to call for an ambulance here.
The ambulance service has not felt the strain of the winter pressure yet - however paramedics are still receiving more than 3,000 in the East of England calls a day.
Kim explained: “The winter pressure hasn’t started yet - this time last year calls were up to 4,000 a day. We have 10 extra trucks on duty a day over the festive period, this has resulted in us having standby shifts which use to be unheard of.
“During the summer it was go, go, go, so it’s so nice to be able to have that break and build a relationship with your colleague, up until the last two weeks you didn’t get a break.
“We all feel like we are more of a team now, it’s a luxury. It doesn’t happen every shift - it varies, but when it does happen it’s so nice.”
To help with winter pressure, the service has also introduced a HALO, or hospital ambulance liaison officer.
They are based in the hospital and they work to speed up how long it takes the ambulance crew to drop off patients and get them on the road again.
My time with Kim and Emily was incredible. I have so much respect for what they do and they truly are an inspirational.