Posted by: medicblog999 | April 10, 2009

Its no different being a paramedic?

paramedicKim over at Emergiblog has been talking about progression in the Nursing profession and Happy Medichas been writing about the loss of the “traditional” fire fighter in his station and area. Two completely separate topics which seem to come together in my post today.

I was working with a relatively new paramedic (lets call him Steve) the other week who used to be an advanced ambulance technician (possible like and EMT-I?). During our day I asked the question that I always do when working with someone relatively new to the ranks of a paramedic

“So, how are you finding being a paramedic?”

The usual responses I get are:

“Its a bit daunting, all the responsibility”

“Brilliant, I love being able to do more for my patients”

“Its really good, but I’m looking forward to the point where I feel confident again”

Whatever is said, its usually hinged around the fact that they have moved from their comfort zone as an advanced technician and into the role of a paramedic. They will still have a couple of years experience under their belts, so they know how to talk to patients, do their physical examinations, decide on various treatment options, and if they were really good techs, then they will have already been thinking like a paramedic for quite some time i.e. if they were not working with a paramedic they would have been thinking if they needed one to assist them and so automatically think about options open to a paramedic over that of a technician.

Virtually unanimously, the one thing that they all appreciate is the ability to do more for someone in pain, which is ultimately one of the most common reasons for individuals calling for an ambulance. Personally, I love the fact that I can attend to someone in severe pain and know that I can usually do something about it and get them substantially more comfortable by the time they reach the A&E department.

More than that, however, is the general extension of skills as a paramedic. Over time you start to consider more differential diagnosis, you think more about the medication available to you for treating your patients and you use them as effectively as you can to ensure that the patient receives the best standard of care that is available to them from their ambulance service.

A paramedic is a position of huge responsibility, especially with the ever increasing amount of referral options open to us, based on our assessments and diagnosis of the patient.

The position of Paramedic is one that many, many people aspire to achieve. I personally, am amazed that I ended up in this profession. I left school with only 3 GCSE`s and the general opinion that I would never really amount to much, but look where I managed to get to!

I am very proud that I can call myself a paramedic and I find it a little strange when it sometimes doesnt seem to mean much to others, and I dont mean the public here. So back to the start of the post:

M999: “So, how are you finding being a paramedic?”

Steve : “Its alright, not much different than being a technician”

M999: “Oh, okay, you must be enjoying the job a bit more now though, what with all the extra skills etc”

Steve : “Nah, its ok, no big deal!”

Now, I am in no way judging here, he might well just be a very laid back kind of guy, or maybe I am just soooooooo over the top with my enthusiasm for the job, but I cant help but feel that to be a good paramedic, you need to have a certain love for the job, be passionate about what you do. That’s what the patients and their families pick up on. That’s what helps give them the sense of calm when we arrive.

Im sure to some, its just a normal career progression in the ambulance service. There are those who do not want the additional responsibilities and skills and choose to stay as technicians, and frankly, I admire them for that.  I admire the fact that they are happy in the role that they are in and in many cases, the long standing techs that I know, the ones who have the real experience behind them are sometimes worth a handful of paramedics.

When I see the very few paramedics who don’t seem to enjoy the job, don’t seem to be in it for the right reason ( or at least my perception of the right reason ), I wonder why they put themselves through it?

I have heard many of the long serving paramedics tell me how when they became paramedics from being techs, there was no financial incentive for it. They did it because they wanted to serve their patients better. They were the ‘trailblazers’ in paramedic care in our region and in the UK. I hold alot of these paramedics in great respect and one of them I can proudly say has become a close friend and confidante.
Things are changing in our service. The first ever UK paramedics are retiring and we are now getting new and dynamic pre-hospital clinicians. Due to a huge recruitment over the last few years, we are now a relatively young workforce as a whole to which there are benefits and disadvantages.

I can’t help but feel that we are losing some of the great characters from the North East Ambulance Service. These are the people who have helped shape me and mould me into the paramedic I am today.

In the grand scheme of things, I’ll soon be an ‘old timer’ on my station. There are only two people with longer service than I, and I have only been in for 9 years.

Its a scary thought!!!


  1. I was at a motorcross event recently where there was a community paramedic covering, I got talking to him and asked him about his job. He said he’d been a paramedic for twenty years and what he likes most is that he gets paid a lot of money for sitting around doing nothing at events like that one. I felt a little naive asking ‘But you must find it rewarding when you do something that’s made a difference? What about successfully resuscitating someone?’ The reply was something like this; ‘No I don’t care if the patient lives or dies, as long as I get paid’.

    I don’t think I need to say what I think of his attitude. The respect I’d felt when I read ‘paramedic’ on his uniform went down the drain.

  2. It’s nice to find someone else who is also proud to call themself a Paramedic. I love my job and having an ability to make a difference helps reinforce that. I am fed up with certain people where I work who constantly moan about everything.

  3. I am a Paramedic over in the states, I grew up in the UK and I am in the process of applying for my medic certification in the UK with the HPC. (Lots of paperwork and over 400 quid). It is rare when you find a medic with passion for his job. It is a shame when you run into guys who are really laid back in respects to their patient care and really just giving them a ride to the emergency department. I have people tell me the less they do for the patient the easier the paperwork. Its a shame that the guy who is having a massive MI and could really benefit from advanced medical care gets the guy who just wants to maybe give them some ASA and some nitro if he’s lucky beacause he has the mind set “well once you give a medication you cant take it back”. Step it up do your job and if a patient will benefit from an intervention DO IT. There is no excuse.

    • Well said Matt!
      Are you coming back over to the UK then? Do you know which service you are going to apply for?

  4. yes will be coming back in the next 6 months. As regards to which service… I have no idea. The missus and i are looking to relocate to the South West region due to family. I dont mind a bit of commuting but I have no idea about the schedules you keep. Over here we work 24 hours on with 48 hours off. Any suggestions?

  5. I will now proceed to reply to a post made months ago!

    What do you plan on doing afterwards? I mean, the fire service and police want people for 30 years. If you started when you’re 20, that’s not exactly full retirement age!

    Are there many clinical options available afterwards?

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