Monday, July 31, 2006

A day in the life

I have just finished watching an online video of pieces of the Eiger crumbling into a swiss valley. Almost immediately I noticed some parallels with the week I just had. It got me thinking about what I thought this job would be.... before I knew anything about it.

When I first applied for 'the job' I was asked as part of my application to write a piece entitled "A day in the life of a paramedic". This was all well and good, but I wasn't a paramedic and really if I took any time to think about it I had no idea what a paramedic's day was like. I had a pen in my hand and a mere 30 minutes to convey that I could:
  • string a sentence together
  • sho tha' I cood spel good e'nuf
  • write all about a day that I knew nothing about... yet.
I remember I ended up writing a rather poor attempt at a humorous day on the ambulance where I locked the keys in the truck. I would love to go back and read that piece now - I think I would find myself laughing at how naive I was. It has probably long been shredded by the recruitment division - although its possible it is being held in my file as evidence that I never really had a clue! So to finally set the record straight, here is a day in the life:

06:32 am
Slide my key into the lock at branch. I'm trying to be quiet and not wake the nightshift in case they are asleep. I do this in spite of the fact I know they love to hear the sound of the dayshift arriving to take over the truck. I know I do the same. A couple of sleepy heads look up at me, say good morning and stretch. I ask how the night was and learn that they got back to branch about 5.30 and have so-far not had the late call out. I hear the stories from the night - inevitably they only talk about the 'bigger' jobs or the more ridiculous call outs at 2 am. All in all it sounds like a normal night where I work. I go and make a cuppa. My partner won't be far behind me.

06:45 am
We head out and check the truck. Make sure the nightshift haven't left any of their personal gear on in the cab and make sure we have the right amount of drugs, Cx collars, Oxygen, bandages, IV gear, Airsplints, Emesis bags etc. We make sure that the suction is working, the defibrillator batteries test ok, the OxySaver circuit doesn't leak, the flashing lights flash, and the siren works. We restock a few things, hang our raincoats behind our seats and log in to the MDT as day shift. The truck is dirty outside and in from the wet night before, so we give it a quick mop and change the bins inside the cab. I pledge to wash the outside later in the day.

07.10 am
The nightshift crew are now awake enough to go home. We wish them a good sleep. They'll be back in a few hours to relieve us at the end of our shift. I put the kettle on again.

07:12 am
The SelCall goes off and we are dispatched to a car accident on the freeway. Single car, Code 1 thanks. Its dispatched as 'inbound' near a particular exit. This road always gives us trouble because it doesn't actually go into the city but instead circles some of the outer suburbs. So there is always discussion about what constitutes 'inbound'. Calling it Eastbound or Westbound usually doesn't help either because at various times this road is oriented to almost every point of the compass. We head for the truck and come up on air to ask for clarification. Its a long burn through morning traffic, dodging and weaving until we reach the freeway. We finally locate two vehicles that have had a low speed merging accident. There are plenty of tears but no injuries. We collect details, offer reassurance, transport and wait for relatives, police and tow trucks to arrive. Nobody wants to go to hospital.

07:59 am
Case notes completed, we head back through the morning traffic towards branch. We hear another nearby car get diverted from a low priority case to an urgent Signal 1 job. We know our area pretty well and can predict that we'll now get the job they got diverted from. Sure enough. We're soon sent to a nursing home to assess and transport an elderly man with high blood pressure and fever. Its one of the better nursing homes in the area and the old fella turns out to be quite a live wire. We have a few good laughs as we take him into a city hospital.

09:40 am
Stop off and grab a coffee and a muffin from our favourite place on the way back to branch. We're backing the car into the garage when the MDT pings again. We're now backing one of the MICA crews to a 5 year old, Severe shortness of breath, Asthma History case nearby. We arrive and find one of the MICA guys loading his bags back into the truck. He says his partner is just finishing up inside and we won't be needed. His partner comes out of the house shaking her head. Nobody is short of breath here. They thank us for coming and we mark ourselves clear on the MDT and ready for the next case.

10:17 am
New case, 54 year old male, back pain, non recent, non traumatic, Signal 2 thanks. This guy has a known injury from work, he's seen his own doctor, he's been taking his pain relief but he's still clearly in a lot of pain. He lives alone and can't drive himself to hospital. We load him up, give him some pain relief and take him to the nearest hospital. We follow up on one of my patients from the day before and find out he's gone home already - inconclusive diagnosis.

11:35 am
Back at branch for lunch, I stick my food in the microwave and push the buttons, the SelCall goes off immediately. Crap. We quickly pack away our food and head for the truck. 82 year old female, Uncontrolled Epistaxis, Signal 1. I know the nursing home we are going to and don't need to look up the address. We arrive and are led to a small room where a staff member is holding a blood-soaked towel under the nose of a frightened looking old woman. I ask to have a look and see that the blood is actively pouring out of both nostrils. My partner applies pinch pressure to the woman's nose while I check her vital signs. We head for hospital with me holding her nose the whole way. My arm aches and I feel like I have been glued to her for ages.

We finally get to eat lunch. Another crew drops in and we talk for a while before they get a job out at the airport.

My partner and I swap jobs, Its now my turn to drive for the afternoon. The Selcall beeps again. The dispatcher starts her conversation with "A bit of a drive for you". and gives us a Signal 3 transport job way out on the edge of the city. There are cows and tractors and rolling hills. Its a long drive but the scenery is good and we chat about non ambulance stuff. For a while we could be two people going for a leisurely drive in the country. Then we arrive and find the farm where our patient is waiting at the gate with bags packed. We drive him back to the hospital where we took the bloke with back pain earlier in the morning. I wave as we walk past his cubicle. He now looks a lot more comfortable and I'm glad to see a couple of his mates have called in to visit.

On the way back from hospital we are flagged down by a person on the street. An old lady has had a fainting episode in the post office. We stop, tell the dispatcher what has happened and they create what is called a field event for us. We head in and assess her. She's pale but alert and we suggest she comes up to hospital. She has a Gold Card, meaning she's probably a war widow, so we can take her to one of the private hospitals nearby. She's a nice old chook and the staff remember her from last time she was in.

We clear the hospital and get dispatched almost immediately to a child that has fallen from some play equipment and is now in an altered conscious state. The traffic is already building for the evening rush and I have to work hard to get through. On the way, the dispatcher calls us up and tells us we can cancel for a closer car, this means some other crew has just become available and will get there sooner. We flick off the beacons and siren and slow down to join the stream of cars heading out of the city. We stop and refuel the truck, ready for the nightshift.

We arrive back at branch, restock a few things and the nightshift crew are just arriving. I gladly hand over the keys and the portable radio. They ask how the day has been. We pack up and head home, we'll be back for nightshift tomorrow night. I never did get to wash the truck.


Anonymous said...

As an EMT from the rolling green hills of England I'm curious what consitutes a Signal 1... 2... 3?

Anonymous said...

you do 10 hour shifts? How does that work?

rob said...

Hi guys, the response we go out on is based on the following:
Signal 1 (or Code 1): A time critical case (ambulance proceeds with lights and sirens)

Signal 2 (or Code 2): An acute, non-time critical case (ambulance proceeds without lights and sirens)

Signal 3 (or Code 3): A non-acute or routine case

And yep the shifts we work are generally 10 hours days and 14 hour nights. The standard roster is 2 10 hour days followed by 2 14 hour nights then 4 days off. Rinse and repeat. There are other rosters for cars that work only a 12 hour day shift for instance.

fi said...
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