Monday, 26 September 2011

One of Them

It turns out, that after less than a decade in EMS, I have suddenly, practically overnight, become one of them.

When I started, I'd always turn to them, sometimes shy, sometimes fearful, mostly confused, and look for approval, for knowledge, for an explanation.

Over the years I've relied on them less and less, but never forgotten that the basic requirement needed for expertise, is experience itself, and those with more than me will always have something new to teach.

In the last few weeks and months, a few people have left the ambulance service. Some of the service elders have retired, some have moved to different services, some have left to do different things, both ambulance related and otherwise. All of this has made me one of them.

Ambulance work and the world of EMS is changing all the time. Many of the newer recruits are joining through universities, bringing a new atmosphere to the workplace, one where study is a vital component. Up until not very long ago, a paramedic would study for a few weeks, pass a couple of exams and walk away with their qualification. Then every so often, maybe every three years or so, they would be asked to show that they have retained their knowledge and skills in a short refresher course. Now, a paramedic course is merely the basis on which to build.

I have to admit, I've never been a particularly studious type. My school grades were average at best and I was especially useless at sciences. If my biology teacher ever found out what I did for a living, they'd probably need my services almost immediately. My university grades (in a course not in any way related to the medical world) never happened due to the fact that I couldn't keep quiet in a lecture and would often find myself being restrained by friends when a lecturer tried to teach something false as though it was gospel. I lasted less than one semester. Clearly I didn't want to study, I just wanted to learn. Life was going to change direction, despite the fact that I had no idea what that direction was.

The first time I ever passed exams with flying colours, was several years later, when I joined the ambulance service. Finally, I knew what I wanted to do, what I wanted to learn. This time, however, I knew that I had no choice. If I wanted to learn, I had to study. And so I did. But this job can't just be learnt in the class room. There always have been, and always will be, those calls where nothing you learn whilst sitting at a desk will be of any use. Only two things will help: common sense, and often, most importantly, experience. 

In nearly a decade, I've seen a lot, but I haven't seen everything. There are calls that I know of, that I've heard about colleagues who have attended, and that I thank my lucky stars to not have shared the same experience. Yet. Then, there are the calls I attend that my colleagues will think the same of me. However, as time goes on, there are fewer of the former and more of the latter. And with more and more of the new breed of paramedic, the studious type, I'm having to do more and more to keep up. 

At the same time, however, as well as just learning the theory, today's paramedics need to learn from the voice of experience. Suddenly, it seems, practically overnight, I have become one of them. One of the elders of the tribe, who, whilst maintaining they're still young(ish), portray this image of having a wealth of knowledge and information, understanding and experience, just from having been around the block a couple of times. 

I like the fact that people who are only at the start of the ladder of their careers feel they can ask me for my ideas and suggestions. 

I like the fact that sometimes I even have the answers, and sometimes, possibly rarely, I might even be right. 

I like the fact that when I don't have the answers, that I'm now bothered about it enough to go and do some homework. 

I like feeling like I'm suddenly, practically overnight, one of them.

It's just that it scares the crap out of me. 


Anonymous said...

I don't think there will ever be a substitute for experience, and us newbies (or not that new anymore in my case) depend on yourself or "them" sharing your experiences freely.
That said I do know a few burnt out old sweats who don't like talking to new people let alone sharing their wisdom with them, which is a shame as there is so much to learn from them. So much of that wisdom is lost when a really experienced person leaves the service.

I hope that one day I'll be able to provide the same example that you do Mr Insomniacmedic, you're a shining example to us all!

Anonymous said...

All they need to do is follow your blog to learn a portion of what they are in for! Your experiences are portrayed amazingly on here.

Eileen said...

Daughter No2 is a degree qualified paramedic but did it whilst working on the ambos. Three years in she's (to quote) still sh@+$£!g herself every job she goes to but will be one of "them" far too soon. The current "them" are all winding down to retirement and within 3 or 4 years she will be one of the most senior on station. Already she is the senior responsible for taking the rap for the majority of her shifts - she'll echo the "thank goodness" that there are still some of you out there!

Anonymous said...

I follow this blog as an aspiring paramedic. Is university the only way in these days?

Eileen said...

Anon 13.56 - as far as I know, officially there are still Ambulance Trusts taking on student paramedics in a training capacity. They start with a 3 month basic training and then alternate working on the ambos and attending training modules. At the end of the 2 years (at least) they achieve a Foundation degree and are qualified paramedics. They can later do another parttime course to convert to an Honours degree.
University is the only way in the sense you need to have a good enough educational background to get into Uni and it is no longer possible to join as a technician and work your way up. My daughter had also obtained her PSV and HGV licences at her own expense as that was a requirement to join an ambulance service in a driving capacity. The advantage is you are paid a salary whilst training and have no student fees at the end. You also are guaranteed a job if you pass your exams. It is, however, very hard work doing a degree whilst working as well - you still have essays and stuff to do during the working periods. My daughter has done both sorts of degree - paramedic was by far the harder.
I said officially: there are Trusts that say they do it, when the next intake will be is not always known. It is dependent on funding being available to fill the posts they have. A few years ago, NEAS had a course filled with applicants and had to postpone it for months at the last minute. You usually need the licences before application - a few people have been accepted without by saying they undertake to get it before they have to drive. But that is part of the basic training so you have to have it by then. And it isn't always as easy as you would think - some people never get the hang of a BIG vehicle (you take your test on something rather longer and wider than an ambulance, they are heavy beasts for their size!)
Hope this helps - trawl the internet for more info, but you have to join some sites for details.

Anonymous said...

Thankyou eileen. I subscribe to the nhs job emails but haven't seen any trainee/student jobs for at least 6 months. The reason I ask as I already have a degree and so can't just go and do a degree and hope for a job afterwards it would have to be job based training :-(

Josh Minor said...

Anon 17.11 - I know my services vacancies are (poss only) displayed on our own site. Might be worth having a look at websites of the individual services you'd consider working for.

Good luck :-)

Anonymous said...

Do you realise that you becoming one of "Them" has resulted in my son Sasha, a) cleaning his shoes without prompting, b)weilding an iron to add knife edge creases to his uniform, and c) even letting his mother cut his hair. The power of being one of "Them" is amazing!

Sasha's Dad

InsomniacMedic said...

Thanks all - and apologies for not replying quick enough!
Aspiring paramedic - glad you've got your answers, and Eileen, thanks for providing them!
Sasha's dad - This has become one of my all time favourite comments on my blog - Thank you!!!