As placement beckons…

Seán Flynn

Faculty: Medical Science
Course: BSc (Hons) Paramedic Science
Category: Allied and public health

1 March 2017

Being a first year Paramedic Science student sometimes has an air of make-believe about it. We dress proudly in uniform for skills classes but we are by and large untested. And sometimes – particularly now, just ahead of placement – the restlessness this generates is practically palpable.

Untitled PageDon’t get me wrong; the scenarios we play out in the skills labs mightn’t exactly be Shakespearean tragedies – they’re usually just ordinary human tragedies but they’re no less gripping for all that. In these urgent clinical dramas, it’s a bit like method acting; the more you commit to your role, the more you tend to learn.

But until we get out on placement, this all seems a little theoretical; at least for those of us who don’t yet have that kind of clinical experience. It’s all been leading up to this and now, after time sometimes seeming to drag, the hour of placement is suddenly almost upon us.

A Monday morning briefing on 20 February for those going with the London Ambulance Service (LAS) brought quite a few issues into sharper focus. The Link Tutor with the LAS, gave us the lay of the land about working life in London town. He didn’t glamorise it and why would he? He did however make us aware of the kind of support services that are available to us in the event of having to deal with any particularly difficult experiences.

Aside from the near certainty of bearing witness to great sadness on a daily basis, the reality of pulling 12-hour shifts and then driving two hours home is beginning to sink in. For body or soul, this won’t be an easy gig by any stretch. And it sure isn’t for the love of money.

As a taster of what might be expected when we do get out on the road, the recent experience of one of our cohort as he made his way home from university is salutary. Having found himself first on the scene of a road traffic collision (RTC), he remained there with his patient until HEMS (Helicopter Emergency Medical Service) arrived. Suffice to say, our classmate’s conduct was extremely professional.

That story is curt, abrupt even, almost like a military despatch but for good reason. Firstly, it needs no dramatisation but more importantly, from a practice point of view; in the interest of anonymity, more granular detail might lead to identification and a breach of patient confidentiality.

But in his actions, I reckon our quick-thinking colleague did what we would all hope to do in a similar situation. The same man would modestly tell you that he only did what he was trained to do and in a way, he’d be right; even if he’s still owed serious kudos for his cool-headedness.

At some point before long, many of us will find ourselves in similar or perhaps even more challenging situations. I wish I had advice to offer but like most of my cohorts, I remain untested and I’m just going to have to trust to my training and the wisdom of my mentor (though not necessarily in that order). All I can do is wish us all well and if it does get hairy, that we’d avail of the appropriate services and (perhaps even more importantly) avail of each other’s support.

So hopefully, in a few months we’ll all be swapping wagon tales like old hands. And in among the black humour and bravado, there’ll be clinical nuggets and I daresay a deeper understanding of the human tragedies we play out in the dressing-up box.
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