Sally celebrates 40 years of service

Sally Pattie 40 years service June 2020

Essex paramedic, Sally Pattie recently celebrated 40 years on the frontline and she says things have certainly changed since her first day in uniform back in 1980.

‘Back then things were very different. The Ambulance Service ran a two-tier system incorporating non-urgent care alongside Accident and Emergency. The volume of emergency calls was much smaller than we see today and GPs attended their own patients at night times and weekends, which made a big difference. 

‘The pace of life was generally much slower then, and we got to know our regular non-urgent patients. We definitely had our favourites. One in particular I remember well, we always made her our last drop home as her daughter would always have a piece of cake and a cup of tea waiting for us! 

‘On the emergency side, the ambulances were mainly a mode of transportation to hospital and carried very little equipment: a first aid box, oxygen, entonox, a few splints, a carry chair and the iconic red blanket! The word ‘paramedic’ was never mentioned and was quite alien to us.

‘In 1985 I was trained in infusion and intubation, we were known as an I & I crew, and gradually over the next two years coronary care was introduced. Up until that point the knowledge and general understanding of heart disease was nowhere near what it is today.

‘The combination of infusion, intubation, coronary care with the introduction of ECG recognition and drug therapy all combined to form a new role which would be known as the ‘paramedic.’ I completed my paramedic course alongside four male colleagues from Essex at the Surrey accredited regional training school in 1987/88.  

‘There were very few paramedics at this time within Essex and even less cardiac monitors/defibrillators, which resulted in me sharing an ‘lLife PAC 5’ with one of my colleagues who was based 30 miles from my station and we alternated every three months!  We certainly didn’t have anything like the level of equipment and medication that is issued as standard on every ambulance today.

‘I was the first female paramedic to qualify in Essex and as such was offered ‘selective’ opportunities which included attending the opening of the QE2 Bridge as the paramedic for the Queen, in the event of an emergency. I also took take part in a three-month evaluation on the police helicopter, reviewing whether an air ambulance might be something to adopt in the future.

‘Of these 40 years, apart from various secondments and acting up roles, I’ve been predominately based out of Ongar which was ideal as it’s close to home. But, as I grew older I found doing 12 hour night shifts a struggle which made me realise I was ready for a change. As a result, last year I took a secondment to Harlow which at that time operated a ‘no night’ rota. That ended in January this year when the Rota Redesign project was introduced and I now work out of Loughton doing two shifts a week on an 11.30am-9.30pm pattern which suits me fine. The job gives me a purpose and I still enjoy what I do, with plenty of down time to recharge and enjoy life.’ 

Despite not being able to see family properly on her big day Sally’s daughter and her colleagues arranged for flowers and balloons to help make the day special. After her daughter posted about her mum’s 40 amazing years on Facebook Sally was also invited for an interview with ITV News and received a personal congratulations from fellow Essex resident, Olly Murs.

Published 3rd June 2020

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