A fallen paramedic 

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”.

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41 thoughts on “A fallen paramedic 

  1. What is this country coming too!! Where is the support for our paramedics it’s not the Police , Fire who keep casualties alive it our Dedicated Paramedics/ Nurses and docs the NHS is dying the government need to be made accountable for the stress and conditions NHS Staff are being force to work in these are trained , dedicated human beings who can only take so much , it’s an outcry staff are taking their own lives because of government cut backs , I work for the NHS and see everyday the worn out dedicated staff who give 100% every minute of the day .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for reading and for your reply. I don’t like to compete over importance and think all emergency service and NHS staff are equally important – none of it would work if we weren’t all there.

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    2. Sadly, to bloody true! If we don’t commit suicide, we wreck our bodies, our minds and our relationships. It’s the best career, and the worst job. I did 26 years and have ended up with a body that struggles to work, our bowels are shot from eating cr** as an when we can, our endocrine systems fail because we eat sweets instead of food and flip a can of pop (full fat) to keep us going for 12+ hours. Our joints and internal organs are wrecked from lifting silly weights (one patient could be lifted in excess of 8 times per job) and our minds are blown from the diagnosed or non diagnosed stress/anxiety/PTSD. Our hearts break from the stresses placed on it, but they also break from all of life’s terrible things that we have been privy to.
      My first Chief Ambulance Officer some 26 years ago, in his welcoming speech told us keen young things. “You can let your patients hurt you ( and they will if you don’t avoid the punches). BUT never let them harm you.
      It’s to late!!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Well said. Totally agree with every word..Im recently retired after 37 yrs. Over the years i.ve seen a lot of changes, some for the better. The stress and pressure has increased beyond a reasonable level. Does nobo dy Care..
    .It screwed my life up and i.m not in the minority..Its about time something was done..I.ve lost to many colleagues way before their time.

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  3. Although my work is not in the NHS, I hope you will see the relevance of my reply to this article.

    I was recently left with no choice but to resign from a fairly well paid job in IT. Already suffering from anxiety and depression, due to two unexpected, immediate family bereavements within weeks of each other, I became exhausted. Why? Because of the shift patterns. 1 week in 4 would be the on-call week. That week consisted of a minimum of 65 hours (11am to midnight, Mon-Fri) in front of a screen, plus midnight to 8am and the weekend responding to the on-call phone. Followed, with no break, by the standard 5 day week. All the while having to put across that perfection of character that professionalism demands. When I questioned this, I was told with some pride that the patterns were based on the NHS’s shift patterns, so there wasn’t a problem.

    There was a clear inability to understand the accumulative effect of these hours and the high alert state that is required when on call. Combined with the mental health issues that I was carrying, this reslted in extreme exhaustion and I crashed and burned.

    Now, I understand the paramedics and other NHS staff are faced with greater pressures and stresses, more trauma and personal risk and probably less in wages than I was on, so in my view I didn’t have it as hard as those guys. I completely crumbled and I’m not afraid to admit that. How on earth these people cope is beyond comprehension. My heart truly goes out to them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! 🙂
      It’s not a competition, your job sounds mighty stressful and your hours absolutely exhausting – I’m not surprised you’ve “crumbled”.
      I hope you’ve found chance to rest and something that makes for a better life for you!
      Thank you for reading and replying.

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  4. I thought (stupidly) after my husband Del Wilton a Paramedic, suicided in 2013, due to PTSD & work related depression, that things might improve. Sadly not. Until you have management that gives a shit, nothing will change. My heart goes out to you all xx

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I was in the service for twenty years as a paramedic till my mate hung himself and was called when I was off duty, I’ve now been diagnosed with complex PTSD something I’ll never recover from, work have let me go, I’m more always good for nothing g now and damaged beyond relief. all the trauma and terrible jobs are coming to the surface, my fellow colleagues this job needs a health warning as it catches up with u, it only has a certain shelf life.

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  6. After 34 years as an ambulance man / paramedic following a complaint made against my control and not me I was interviewed for over 2hrs and both myself and union rep believed management felt I had caused the patients death , I was reduced to tears. I lost my job

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  7. My sincerest condolenscences to all….it’s a tough job and trust me when I say it is not suited for most people.what amazes me is that we get very little support in most areas.I’ve been attacked more times than I can count and have been wounded at least once.during my 13 years of service I’ve seen my student’s tired,overworked, underpaid and just bashed into the floor with a lack of enthusiasm…it’s a shame

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  8. When my husband was dying the doctors in that dept of excellence pointed out that people who are amid major trauma situations change thier outlook on life and illness. Paramedics live in this other world of major trauma which can only be understood by those few who suffered the sort of emotional strain and physical nightmare of pain and despair. Yet NHS managers make no allowance for the human impact of living in this nightmare world.and have expectations of performance which are beyond Belief! And without the compassion they expect from thier employees towards Patients?

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  9. As much as I love the job, the politics and the way its managed totally ruin it. We’re constantly subjected to even greater pressure and given pseudo support from managers and politicians who can talk for hours without actually saying everything.

    I take people to hospital far too often just to protect me from my employers in case something inevitably happens to that patient and I get the blame because some freak accident unrelated to me even being there happens.

    I go to mental health patients almost every shift sometimes multiple times in one shift and tell them every time that hospital is the best and safest place for them to be, this is a total lie. A&E don’t have the time to treat these people so can only put them in a room until the psych team who are overstretched themselves turn up and most of the time hospital is the worst possible place to be for these people.

    The system fails the patients and the staff every because the people managing us have become so focused on bank balances and invoices, spend more time making the staff feel actually valued and their performance will skyrocket that day and then those managers precious spreadsheets and KPI’s will improve instantly.

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  10. I take patients and renal patients to hospital as a volunteer in my car. Occasionally I get bad days but nothing like the paramedics and other NHS staff. Another thing we have to remember about stress is that if a paramedic is on an emergency call and he or she have not got their wits about them the result could be catastrophic.

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  11. I am a really new Paramedic and it is a worry that the Trusts are losing so many truly great clinicians who have just had enough. Every day we see another one lost! What’s the answer?? Something needs to be done soon …

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  12. Well said mate.. These things need saying! Plus I guess it’s therapeutic too for you to air them and for us to read and agree and see ourselves there in your shoes.. Does us good to know we are not on our own..
    Keep it up! You are helping.. 😊
    Mike (40years front line service at end of Jan.!)

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    1. Thank you! I didn’t think my “I can’t sleep” ranting blog would reach so many people but I’m glad that it has, if it’s helpful:)
      Kudos on your service dude! Safe to say I won’t last that long 😂

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  13. Poignant words that everyone should read and particulatly those ‘leading’ our country, who seem blissfully unaware- as is the case in so many areas – when will.they sit up and take real notice of how so many people are struggling to stay afloat every day. You have my total and utter respect. Thank you.

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  14. I’ve been a Paramedic for over 20 years, ok so the job is difficult at times.. but I’M SICK of people keeping on “We work 48 hour weeks regularly, and that’s if we get off on time. We barely get to stop to eat, drink or even go to the bathroom. “.. 48 hour weeks!!!! yes but then extra days off in other weeks to average out 37 hours… and if you can’t have a wee and get grub or drink during the shift then you’re doing something wrong !!

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    1. Ah the balanced argument.
      It does average out to that, tis true, but doesn’t s top us doing 48 hour weeks which I personally find exhausting.
      I think food drink and toiletting seems to vary between services but I’ve certainly been caught out on scene for hours with a full bladder and grumbling stomach but hey, if you’ve got the timing skills, strong bladder and strong mind set to say our working conditions aren’t that bad then fair play to you, you’re a stronger woman than me!

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  15. retired 2015 after 23 years.started out a brilliant vocation then the hpc arrived then the senior paramedics arrived then the new whistleblowers arrived,couldnt wait to get out,the management couldnt organise a pissup in a brewery.feel so sorry for the new paramedics,so much weight on their young shoulders and noone to fall back on.

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  16. They’re leaving because they’re suck of being treated like rubbish. They give up their time to help others only to be treated badly by the service provider. Being made to feel guilty for not taking a shift when someone pulls out even though they’ve already kust done 48 hours straight.

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  17. I was so close to ending it. After 10 years of Paramedic service, then to develop ‘ptsd & work stress’. It was a terrifying place to find yourself. I’m a strong, confident person with no history of anxiety, last kind of character you’d expect to crumble. Talking to a psychotherapists provided enough release untill I found the courage to leave the job. Things are better.

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    1. I’m glad you found the courage to walk away but am sorry the job caused you so much stress and probably pain.. hope you’ve found something better now! Thanks for reading and replying

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  18. I left after 20 years as a Paramedic.

    Life in the NHS is one comfy bubble… 37.5 hours a week, 300 odd hours annual leave /bank holiday, 6 months full and 6 months half sick pay, access to counselling and occhy health services. It’s a comfy bubble. Ok so you have managers jumping all over you, but every single job we do is not a stress out job. The bulk of the work is bread and butter old people and run of the mill non trauma jobs.
    People know what the job is like and you take the rough with the smooth.
    This is like moving near an airport and moaning about the airplanes flying over.

    I left because of the politics, penny pinching and the daily 2-3 hours off late (But we’d come in 2-3 hours late the next day to make sure we had 11 hours off in between shifts)

    There’s a massive world out there that a Para can work in, you don’t have to stay in the NHS.

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    1. This is very true, thanks Bill.
      I agree so much with what you have said, and I don’t like to sit on my backside moaning about conditions but not doing anything about it. Hence, this is a totally anonymous post that none of my local colleagues know I have written as I am generally an optimistic worker and effectively knew what I was getting myself into.
      This is not just a post to rant about our conditions, this a post because my colleague recently committed suicide and I want more people to be aware of the realities of our job and also allow other people to come forward against the stigma and disclose how the job really effects you. The post seems to have reached a lot more people than I could have expected.
      I probably will leave the NHS and take my registration as well but it saddens me that this leaves a void that will only get bigger and leaves my colleagues even more over stretched.
      Thank you for reading and for replying.

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  19. Don’t forget firefighters either…while not all firefighters are EMT’s, some are, just as some are also First Responders. My oldest son (30) is a combination of both. I know only a handful of things he’s seen that has affected him on a VERY deep level, just as I know he isn’t one to really talk about such things. It affects them all, and for their families, biological and extended, it affects us as well. Thank you for your post. Keep up the great work. ❤

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  20. I’ve been in the ambulance service for 10 years almost, and I am battling with PTSD, anxiety and depression. My immediate managers and the next line up have been fantastic and supportive, and they really seem to understand that everyone is breaking. Unfortunately, however, the ambulance service needs to invest more money in educating people, like the Fire Service has, if we are ever going to see any change in our demand. People need to take responsibility for themselves, and remember that they can get themselves to hospital, and not expect or demand an ambulance for every little thing. People think that 111 is like NHS Direct, where you could ring for advice. GPs are experiencing the same problems as us, and they are under the same pressure and target times too. If we cannot educate this generation, then things will only get worse.

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  21. I know this won’t go far towards dealing with all the issues you’ve all mentioned, but I wanted to say thank you. My Dad is in end stage Vascular Dementia, and until today was cared for at home (he’s now in hospital due to infection and is unlikely to be coming home.) As a result, we have seen numerous paramedics and first responders, especially over the last few weeks. Every single one, without exception, was an angel. The care, the reassurance, and the compassion was so readily given and so gratefully received by all of us. So I just wanted to share my appreciation for the work you do, the hours you put in and the sacrifices you make. Believe me, there are many of us out there for whom this does not go unnoticed. Thank you x

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  22. Retired after 40 years in NHS finished as a cardiac specialist nurse loved my career but the stress at work meant mental illness and treatment I found reassurance in seeing colleagues falling into the same pit some climbed out like me others committed suicide such a tragic loss.We have never seemed to care for the careers (staff) which is such a waste of our most precious commodity staff.Ill health amongst us is so costly but no one seems to care😔

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  23. I count myself as one of the fortunate ones. I proudly retired after 35 years it’s EMS, 32 of them actively working on the ambulance. Maybe it’s not so much that I was lucky but rather that I learned early in my career “to be selfish”, to advocate for my own mental health by ensuring that I valued time off work. I valued family time at all costs, more than overtime, more than getting “ahead” or participating in other work related activities. My mantra was to work so I could live, and not live to work. Of course, not everyone has the luxury of doing that and these people concern me the most as their options are so limited.

    Please don’t get me wrong, I am not blaming staff for the problems that exist today. I fully understand that the system is broken and is currently being carried on the backs of staff. I’m pretty sure that PTSD was around years ago, just not identified specifically and certainly not in the numbers we see today. I realize that many practitioners have no choice, being paid far less than their contributions are worth. I was fortunate to be paid a fair wage for my services. And I had the financial, physical and emotional support of my partner. But, bottom line, I learned early into my career to advocate for myself. I made sure that I shared my experiences with people I worked with and ensured that I received the support I needed. I went for counselling before I reached a crisis point. I put my pride aside and asked for help whenever I needed it. Maybe being a woman made that easier, I don’t know. All I know is that for many years I worked 14 + hour night shifts doing some pretty shitty calls. We didn’t gave a huge staff then so if something big went down, the chances of being involved were probably close to 50%. I gained tremendous experience and out of necessity, I also leaned some awesome coping practices.

    My intention here is not to make anyone feel guilty or responsible for a system that is clearly not working and not their fault. An inordinate number of practitioners are feeling unsupported, unvalued and tragically feeling as though they have no recourse but to end their life. It became abundantly clear to me early on that management alone could be relied upon advocate for us (although I appreciate that there are some awesome services out there doing everything they can to support their staff).

    Bottom line, we must care for each other people. No one is in a better position to understand the system and the demands of the job. Keep safe and be there for each other.

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  24. I am a midwife with 20 yrs experience… I was driving to work crying and driving home crying and thought one day enough is enough ! too many highly skilled compassionate professionals are walking away as they are not supported by management, but used as pawns to cover up bad management. What a waste ! sad sad times …..

    Liked by 1 person

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