This post is in direct reply to a comment made by NickF on my recent post “Patient collapsed – First aider on scene”. If you haven’t read his comment, have a quick flick back and see he questions before you read on! Specifically, the point I want to discuss is :
“I know some professional ambulance crews hate SJA, assuming all members are either well intentioned buffoons or failed/wannabe Paramedics. I would be interested in your opinion.
I often wonder why when we are in trouble up a mountain or at sea we are happy to see a team of dedicated and well trained volunteers turn up and think them heroes (quite rightly) but if a SJA ambulance turns up it is seen as second rate service – I assume it is because there is a professional alternative but I still think it is a bit unfair.”
Right, lets crack on then…..
Firstly Nick, I think you are spot on with the part about mountain rescue, and it is the fact that they are so highly trained in a very specialised skill that they are invaluable in some situations, and no-one is better at doing that job than they are. Mountain rescue teams are often made up of some paramedics, doctors and other health care staff as well, so even though they are volunteers, some still have advanced health care skills, above and beyond that of mountain/outdoors medicine. Because they hold such a unique position in their communities they are quite rightly highly respected.
I understand your frustration of how the St Johns Ambulance service is seen in this country, and to be honest, I am sure there are many of us, and the public, out there who do hold the view of “well intentioned buffoons or failed/wannabe Paramedics” (your words, not mine!!). The tough part is how to get past that.
Again, its all down to mutual respect and understanding. I work alongside St Johns on many occasions throughout the year, usually at events such as concerts, football matches, great north run etc etc. These are the places where St Johns and other voluntary services excel, and lets be honest, without your presence, along with the other emergency services, the event wouldn’t even be allowed to go ahead. I may well be wrong here (please correct me if I am) but the majority of the St Johns ranks are first aiders, with a proportion of them trained to the level of ambulance aid which allows those to transport patients to hospital.
I think that paramedics and ambulance staff only have issues when St Johns and Red Cross etc are used inappropriately (in thier opinion).
Let me give you an example. Every year the North East Ambulance Service is supported by Red Cross and St Johns Ambulance during the wonderful “winter pressures” and over the festive season. Your volunteers come out in their very nicely equipped vehicles and help bolster our numbers, so hopefully the paramedic crews can deal with the “proper poorly” patients! Your service and assistance is invaluable to us and should be recognised by every paramedic out there…BUT…. if you are sent to deal with calls that are not really appropriate for your level of training, then that is when the public and sometimes the paramedics can start to show their opinions. Its not the St Johns ambulance crews fault (most of the time) but instead it is the jobs they are dispatched to from our control room, and again, its not their fault either, as they can only make dispatch decisions based on what they caller tells them over the phone.
Used correctly it gives the St John and Red Cross staff valuable experience in the 999 setting and let’s be honest, the most of what we go to, especially, over the holiday period is usually minor injury and illness which is very appropriate for the voluntary agencies to deal with.
However, If I was having a MI (heart attack) and a St Johns Ambulance crew turned up at my door after I or one of my family had called 999, I would be asking when the “proper” ambulance would turn up. Nothing against you guys, but I would want my 12 lead ECG transmitted to the local PPCI centre, I would want my aspirin, buccal GTN, cannula and Morphine. I would want to know that If I arrested en route or went into acute LVF (left ventricular failure), that the member of staff looking after me could give me the best that the North East Ambulance service can provide. If you turned up, you could still provide an essential service to me as a “first responder” and if I arrested you could hopefully keep me viable until the advanced care arrived.
That is where the voluntary service helps the Ambulance service, and that is why every time I see a St Johns or Red Cross ambulance driving past me in my rapid response car or Ambulance I will wave. If I see you in or outside the A&E department, I will stop and see how you are getting on, if you are having a good/busy day, and that is why if we are working on a patient together, I will value your opinion, be grateful for your help and appreciate your input.
We are all pre-hospital care providers, but we all fit into various sections of the spectrum. Its like when I joined the ambulance service from being a nurse, people thought I would have a head start at being a paramedic. The truth of the matter is that being a nurse teaches you very little about emergency situations outside of the hospital (unless you are an A&E or ER nurse). St Johns, Red Cross , community first aiders, and mountain rescue are trained to deal with specific circumstances and types of patients and each have their very own place in providing emergency care and first aid to the community they serve. When we work together, we make a great team, as long as we all understand, respect and value each others contributions.
I know for a fact that many people join the voluntary emergency services as they want to dip into that side of things before they try the ambulance service for a career. Mrs Medic999 was one of those people. She used to be a St Johns trainer in her youth (some of the stories she can tell about the camps !!!!). Our very own Clinical Practice Manager for the service comes from a Red Cross background, and I know quite a few paramedics who are still active members of the Red Cross and St Johns Ambulance Service.
Finally, I have never heard of the term “Johnie haters”. It brings a whole other image to mind for me!!!
I really hope this hasn’t come out wrong. I am just trying to reinforce the point that we all have a service to provide and each is valuable, but is distinct in its own way. The only trouble we get into is when the edges get a bit blurred and we start to overlap into someone elses expertise (without the relevant training), although you would never, ever, get me absailing down a cliff to get to a casualty. I`ll be the one sitting in the back of the nice ambulance waiting for the lovely packaged patient!!
If you think I am talking a whole load of rubbish, please let me know in the comments!