Recent tragic events have sadly inspired this post. Another green shirt has fallen; another colleague laid to rest; another family heartbroken.
The country is short of paramedics and all other equally important emergency service and NHS workers. The rate at which staff are walking away from the ambulance service greatly outweighs the rate at which folk are joining; retention is at an all time low.
And why? There is no simple answer to this. The hours are too long, the responsibilities too high, the fear too great. More and more pressure is piled on on a daily basis to be leaving more patients at home, to be referring them to equally outstretched “alternative care pathways” such as out of hours GPs, physios etc. Whilst the exact same set of mouths fear-monger about the risks of not transporting patients to hospital.
“They’ll always need paramedics” Is this job security? No its not. Not when every single decision you make threatens your career. Everyday you risk attending something that may ruin or take your life. When forced to decide, should we try to save our patients, the NHS or ourselves?
We work 48 hour weeks regularly, and that’s if we get to finish on time. We barely get to stop to eat, drink or even go to the bathroom. We survive on caffeine and adrenaline and finish each day ragged.
A colleague joked to me recently that all he does outside of work is try to make his relationship survive, but we both know how sadly true this is. The career eats into our loved ones lives nearly as much as our own.
Individuals are still being penalised for faults in the systems. Jobs are being lost, staff are constantly expected to bear the brunt of the publics outrage.
A service that used to be grounded in “family” with “work wives” and husbands has become a backstabbing, dog eat dog world driven by fear. Honest mistakes are becoming unforgivable human errors, as if we don’t punish ourselves enough.
Paramedics are killing themselves. Nurses, doctors, receptionists, anyone who feels so directly the strain of the NHS on their shoulders, these people are killing themselves. And who attends paramedics who kill themselves? Paramedics do! Our friends, we pick up our own friends from this mess we’re living in.
People in other careers are often shocked by how NHS staff are treated, the archaic working conditions we still struggle under. A scary statistic of emergency service workers are medicated for depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions just to survive their working days.
Honestly, nobody gets to just “walk” away from this now, whatever the government figures may say.
Rest in peace to all those who have fallen, forever “in our ambulance hearts”.