New internal comms officer spends a day on the road

Ambulance side shot

New Internal Communications Officer Ashleigh Rickards – who worked in the Chelmsford EOC until joining the Communications team - spent a day with Chelmsford crew Emergency Medical Technician Barrie Williams and Student Paramedic Fiona Newsome last month. Here, she talks about the new station, the people she came into contact with, and how the community works together for patient care.

I thought working one 12-hour shift wouldn’t phase me in the slightest, but as I prepared to leave my house at 6am when the sun was still coming up, I knew my body was in for a shock!

Arriving at Chelmsford station was exciting as I hadn’t had a chance to see the new site, despite it being the closest one to where I live. The open communal area and large windows facing out to the car park gave a much less claustrophobic feel than I got from the old Coval Lane site. I was greeted at the entrance by Barrie and realised that he was on the first ever vehicle I observed on more than 11 years ago! He then introduced me to Fiona, his crew mate.

As we waited for our first job I was concerned I would suffer from a case of The Curse of the Observer, but that was soon quashed as we received details of a Red 2 call down the road. We were heading to an elderly woman with breathing problems. It didn’t take us long to get there, but I still had a chance to see how information was passed from the emergency operations centre (EOC), something which I also hadn’t had a chance to see since the move to the Cleric CAD system.

When we arrived, we were greeted by her neighbour. The patient suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and also had a chest infection. After doing some observations and given a nebulizer, Barry and Fiona decided our patient needed to make a trip to Broomfield Hospital in case she needed intravenous (IV) antibiotics.

When Barrie and I went out to the ambulance to get the lady a chair, he explained some more about COPD. He said that people such as this patient were more vulnerable to infections and found it harder to fight them. The patient and her neighbour (they have lived near one another for more than 30 years!) said that they used to smoke before giving up when they noticed the implications on their health. This led to an interesting discussion about how such things never used to carry warnings and what we’ll be hearing about current fads in the future.

I had my first opportunity to sit in the front of the ambulance when we travelled to Broomfield -, now I may be an adult, but I still get as excited about that now as I did when I was a kid! It was also a great opportunity to have a chat with Barrie about what he thought about the changes we had seen within the Trust since we last did a ride out, the fact that we were employed by Essex Ambulance Service then being one of them!

I hadn’t experienced Broomfield Hospital A&E since it had been built, from a work perspective. Luckily it wasn’t too busy so the patient didn’t have to wait, and before long we were on our way again. We were given our next call, which was for a woman who was vomiting and having abdominal pain. Due to her medical history, it was decided that the best course of action would be for Fiona to speak to the patient’s own GP in the first instance. The GP agreed and the patient was given some additional self-care advice before being left at home. I thought this was a really good example of NHS services working together as the GP surgery put Fiona straight through to the doctor without any delay, avoiding an unnecessary trip to hospital but also a doctor’s appointment too.

We were soon given another call, and this time we were heading to a man who had fallen down the stairs. When we arrived he was clearly in some distress and had injured his back. The patient had a rare condition called Gitelman Syndrome, which can cause muscle weakness and spasms, and was believed to be the cause of the fall. Due to his medical history, it was decided he would be conveyed in to Hospital.

Once we arrived at Broomfield Hospital it had started to become busier, but luckily the patient, again, didn’t have to wait too long, and we were soon leaving him with his wife for company. Then it was time to head back to station for some lunch. I got to meet lots of other staff and after introducing myself and explaining my role, many were keen to ask questions and I was given lots of inspiration for future projects for the Communications team.

Lunch over; we were given another call to see an elderly woman who had fallen in her house. When we got there and were shown to the patient, it quickly became apparent this wasn’t going to be a quick and simple fall as she was in a small room.

The patient’s daughter arrived and provided some background. Having done the usual observations, Fiona and Barrie suspected an infection; Barrie contacted the GP surgery and they prescribed antibiotics for the daughter to collect. This ended up being our longest job of the day though, as the crew had to make a further referral, and it is these types of jobs that can take up ambulances for protracted times. After some time the patient was comfortably back in her bed, and Barrie and Fiona had had a good chat with the patient’s relatives of how best to go forward.

I was starting to get tired by this point, but Barrie and Fiona were still firing on all cylinders. As we started to make our way back to the station, we were passed details for another falls patient. We had to let ourselves in using keysafe details passed by Careline. It was another chance for me to see how the systems in place by the NHS and supporting agencies work together.

Fortunately the patient was not injured and just needed some assistance in getting back up. Following consultation with her GP she was left in good spirits with her carer and we said our goodbyes before heading back to station.

As we were driving back we received details for an immediate threat to life at a GP surgery and made our way on blue lights. The GP suspected that the patient may have had a stroke so this was my chance to see the stroke pathway in action. Once we had collected the patient he was conveyed on blue lights to hospital, with Barrie calling Broomfield Hospital en route to let them know we were imminent. The patient went to the front of the queue so the staff could continue their check list and decide on the next course of action for him. It was all very fast paced and before I knew it we were heading away from the hospital back to station, where we could sign off as it was the end of our shift!

I really enjoyed my shift; it was great getting to meet the patients that we all go out of our way on a day-to-day basis to help, no matter what our role within the Trust is. But, of course, it also highlighted the hardworking people we have out there on the front line, making us proud every day.

Published 1st May, 2017

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