Insightful, educational and enjoyable…despite the bad jokes – my time at West Midlands Ambulance Service

Thursday 30th May 2019 – 11.45am – Daniel Rundle.

As I sat in my first lecture as a journalism student at Birmingham City University, I felt utterly deflated when I was told I was to complete a mandatory 70 hours work experience at the end of my first year, in order to progress into second year. I dreaded the idea of having to go and work at a news publication where I would most likely be given practically no real experience that would help me in my studies.

However, I found myself to be rather lucky in the placement I received. My mum has been a paramedic with West Midlands Ambulance Service for nearly four years and was able to get me a place in the Press Office at Millennium Point. On my first day, I was introduced to Murray MacGregor Claire Brown and Jamie Arrowsmith, the trio that I would be working alongside for the next two weeks.

They immediately made me feel welcome and gave me plenty of interesting work to get on with during my time there. I learned how to write and format a press release, and with their guidance I improved my own writing skills, as well as learning how to become more vigilant in the editing of my work to make sure it reaches the level of quality and professionalism that I aspire to reach. I truly felt like a member of the team for the time that I was there, and thoroughly enjoyed being in their company, even if they did have a seemingly endless stream of terrible jokes.

As part of my work experience, I was given the opportunity to spend time in the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) in Brierley Hill. Here, I sat with call assessors as they answered a range of 999 calls, and the dispatchers who juggle the priorities to ensure ambulances get to people as quickly as possible. During my time with the call assessors, I listened in on many different types of emergencies, ranging from heart attacks to a woman with a serious brain tumour who was experiencing extremely painful headaches. This call in particular was emotional to listen to, and it put into perspective how difficult the job of a call assessor can be.

In my time with the dispatchers, I watched as they sent countless ambulances to emergency 999 calls and was truly baffled by the system they use to do so. While I sat trying to work out what one small section of a screen meant, the dispatcher would be viewing multiple screens with hoards of information with seemingly little to no difficulty as they directed one ambulance after another to whichever patient needed them the most, occasionally diverting a crew if a more serious incident required their attention.

This gave me greater context for my shift alongside my mom on an emergency ambulance. I spent twelve hours on a shift with her and her crewmate, observing them as they attended to patients. We began our shift, and immediately had a call to a woman with dementia who had overdosed. When we arrived, the woman was confused and distressed, but the paramedics managed to calm her down and transport her to a hospital to receive further treatment.

We spent much of the shift attending patients who were generally unwell, and it was incredible to see how their state improved with the aid that the paramedics were able to give, both medically and emotionally. Their presence and support were often enough to calm patients, so they could be treated and where necessary, transported to hospital.

Although we didn’t experience this during my time on the ambulance, we discussed the frustrations of attending jobs that don’t require an emergency ambulance. While many people may not think this is an issue, it can potentially mean that there are no ambulances available if a serious call, such as a cardiac arrest, requires the attendance of an ambulance.

Around 10 minutes before our 12-hour shift was due to end, we received a call to a young girl having a seizure. Despite the shift being almost over, the paramedics didn’t hesitate in racing to attend the patient. When we arrived, it was clear that we would require additional support, so a backup crew and the MERIT team (Medical Emergency Response Intervention Team) were called. Through excellent teamwork and communication, we were able to stabilise the girl and transport her to hospital.

Working with my mom was a fantastic experience, as I got to see first hand the job she talks about so much at home. To see her in a job she’s so passionate about, offering life saving care to people, was awe-inspiring to watch.

My experience at West Midlands Ambulance Service was invaluable and gave me an insight into the lives of the hardworking, dedicated staff that care for the people of the West Midlands, and the vital roles each of them play in saving lives in the community. I gained a greater appreciation for all the work that everyone in the Trust does, gained new skills and improved on existing skills that will serve me well as I continue my studies and move on into a career in journalism.

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