Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Wind shift

It has been more than a year since my last post and there have been many changes.

I have changed, my job has changed and the profession has changed. Its simply not what it used to be.

I am reluctant to write in the open and honest way that I used to; there are too many sensitive people out there. It's too easy to offend and bother, either by accident or by being truthful. The design of this blog was deliberate. I set out to let readers know what I experienced and how I experienced it. The result of this, over the years, has been that a number of individuals have become paramedics after reading and following the words I wrote.

A change in my posting methodology is required; I need to write only that which is relevant and neutral while I am professionally bound to one or the other. This is the way of things these days.

The profession is different too. We are answering emergency calls that can, at best, be described as not in the least life-threatening. Insect bites, toilet-tissue incidents and sore thumbs now, apparently, count as worth our lives and the risk of losing them while we run on blue lights and sirens through an ever-obstructive and seemingly non-caring driver world. In the year that has passed, I have had my life threatened directly, been verbally and physically abused by those I tried to help and have had less and less time with my family as the tide changes in favour of the thousands of callers who simply do not need an ambulance, but who call one because they think there is no other option, or they have little or no understanding of their medical or physical problem. All of this is well documented; all of this is on your TV in the shape of fly-on-the-wall entertainment. I am not saying anything here that you do not already know.

My colleagues are tired and depressed. They are leaving the profession, or going to places where there is still hope for pre-hospital care. Paramedics have become nomadic. Almost every ambulance service in the country is experiencing a filter-through of new and experienced personnel. Potentially, if enough of the more experienced paramedics leave their service, the patient knowledge-base will stagnate to only that which is within a few years scope of practice.

Perhaps this is the best way to develop the profession. I haven't met anyone yet who agrees that it is, but nothing here makes me right until it has run its course.

Paramedics are also still extremely vulnerable to losing all that they have worked so hard to achieve because we are still registered with a body that encompasses many other 'peripheral' medical professions. We are not registered alongside nurse or doctors, where I believe we should be. Neither do we have our own professional society - we have a college but its not a 'Royal College'. Not enough paramedics have signed up for it, so it doesn't have the teeth it needs to defend us when the smallest error and sometimes (as recent stories will confirm) doing what we thought was the right thing, can get you sacked and struck off. In comparison to other medical professions, we appear to be the ones set  up to fall the hardest. Where's our protection and assurance?

I still care deeply about my patients and I still love what I do (when I'm doing it properly) but I'm less passionate about my direction of travel. I can't see how on earth we are going to be able to sustain things as they are. Everyone wants an answer; everyone wants to know how we can save money and cut the NHS workload... but nobody is asking us.

What we need is a shift in the wind.


KH said...

I joined the profession partly as a result of the seed being planted by blogs lime yours. I had the pleasure of meeting your son when he stopped off duty at an accident in his home town. Now I've left that service for another where there is still an ambulance service and their staff can progress. I'm surrounded by ex LAS staff who tell me the same stories you hint at above, and I have seen only too many times. The failure of some services in the last few years has been dramatic and underreported. Staff are leaving in droves, burning out and cynical and miserable. We get no pay rises, our pensions, which many of us never live to claim, are cut. Now they want to dock our pay when we are sick with injury or illness probably due to the conditions we work in. And yet the public call more and more, for less and less, and expect miracles.

Thanks for your writing, despite all that I still love my job and I wouldn't do anything else!

Elizabeth @ The Garden Window said...

In the UK it is possible to become a Paramedic as part of a three year undergraduate degree course, which is 50% theory, 50% placement with a paramedic team for practical training, as well as the old "training on the job" system. It will be interesting to see how this pans, out, as it was pretty disastrous for nursing training....

You most definitely should be regarded as medical professionals; I would far rather be treated by a paramedic than an awful lot of GPs.

There has recently been a very good TV series here following a group of young trainees as they start their first placements with paramedic mentors.

Anonymous said...

I just wanted say how good it is to see an update from you. I was a regular reader of your blog and you cross my mind often.

Josh said...

Nice to have you back Stu, If you are back? We've all missed you and your stories.

I joined your world in September when I started my Uni course and I completely agree with what you've said about the knowledge base stagnating.
I'm very passionate about HE paramedics, but when 50% of the station have only been on the road 5 years or less, then it must be difficult to get experience mentors and learning experience.

Hope you're enjoying your new role and looking forward to seeing more blogs. I've had to stray to other paramedic bloggers in order to get my fix this past year.


Anonymous said...


missed your blog - I started reading when I was at school. I'm at med school now, going for a career in emergency medicine, and every paramedic I've met is extremely knowledgeable and professional with every patient, even the drunks. They care about their profession and their patients, and they deserve more respect and protection, both legally and physically, from patients and strange bystanders, then they get at the moment. I hope you stick with it :) Good luck!


Unknown said...

I love your book and blog
You have inspired me to become a paramedic

I hope things get betterfor you