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A Day in the Life of a Paramedic

Ambulance ServicesThere are thousands of incredibly varied jobs in the health service and all fulfil specific roles as part of an enormous chain. The day-to-day running of these services are intricate, complex and require a great number of people working around the clock to make them work. In this article, we delve into the daily life of a paramedic – to see just what it takes to make sure first response is available when people need it – at any time of the day or night.

Shift work in the paramedic business can be long and gruelling – many people often work shifts of 12 hours or more. Varying throughout the week, all shifts are covered 24 hours a day and response time can be measured according to the perceived danger the patient is in:

Red 1: The highest priority, where patients may not be breathing/have a pulse and are in critical danger. 75% of these calls are responded to in 8 minutes or less.

Red 2: Strokes or fits are in this category – still regarded as serious/life threatening but less immediately time critical, although many are also responded to in 8 minutes or less.

A19: All other calls – 95% of these are responded to within 19 minutes.

With the target being within 20 minutes for every single call a paramedic receives, everyone must be on high alert at all times and of course ready to respond to any possible emergency. One of the first actions to take is the daily vehicle check – oil, water, lights and tyres are all checked as well as the main cabin area of the ambulance for the appropriate drugs and medical equipment. Once this is done, crews are booked on and ready to head out on the road when required.

It rarely is long before emergency calls come in – and in busy areas or busy days, it’s common for crews to not have time to return to base before other emergencies are dealt with. Once a paramedic team is with a patient, a rapid assessment of their condition takes place followed by a decision on whether a hospital visit is required – which in many cases it is. However, if the patient’s symptoms are dealt with and they improve, crews declare themselves ‘green’ and are released to respond to other emergencies that may arise. If a hospital visit is required, it’s likely that a call for something else will come in before crews even have a chance to clean and clear the ambulance.

It can clearly be seen that the work of a paramedic can be demanding – with very little downtime. At the end of a shift, which is likely to be more than 12 hours after they started, crews may even get called to other emergencies that require their attention. As many paramedics, or anyone in the medical profession will attest, it’s rare that a 12-hour shift stays a 12-hour shift.

Although a busy and often stressful environment in which to work, paramedics do report a high level of job satisfaction despite the obvious way in which they are put to the test many times a day. The variety in the job is one of the motivations – and the feeling of saving someone’s life is not something that many people get to experience on a daily basis.

If you would like to know more about how to become a paramedic, explore NHS Careers or find out more in the working life section of the Guardian in Staff of Life.


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