Monday, July 02, 2012

See Ya

I'm going to wrap this thing up finally. I've been followed around by that pesky black dog again lately and I'm now taking an extended break. Just need to focus on a few other things for a while. The email address will stay live, so I'll try to respond as quick as I can to that, but my blogging days are done for now. There are so many excellent and eloquent blogs out there that will give you a taste of the world we work in so get searching and you will find them. Thanks for all the emails and comments and support you have shared with me - it has been wonderful.
Take care,


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Way outta tune

We must have looked pretty funny to the people at the tram stop. It was 7:30 am, we were making our way back from the Royal Melbourne Hospital down Flemington Road. Some DJ had cued up So Beautiful by Pete Murray so my partner had the radio cranked up and we were both sinking back in our chairs, singing loudly and waiting for the lights to change. We were a couple of spent humans heading home with our eyes hanging out while the sardines on the tram headed the other way. All shoulder to shoulder with their iPods keeping them from any inadvertent human interaction. Each one just starting their day and heading into town for another round of cubicle warfare in the office. I figured with the volume right up, we wouldn't even hear if the dispatcher tried to give us another job. We'd done 15 hours already and I was too tired to care.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


We very sadly lost a colleague today. I hope he knew how many people respected him and how well-liked he really was. He will be greatly missed by many people. My thoughts go out to his family and friends.

Friday, February 17, 2012


The fire trucks were already in the street. They were climbing back into their trucks when we arrived. We are told it is another hoax. There's no house fire, no people in flames. Just a bewildered occupant who answered the door - and left wondering who would bother ringing and sending the fire brigade to his house for no reason. While we chatted with the boys from the local fire station, a taxi also arrived and eventually went up to the same front door. The owner came out and I saw him talk to the driver before he shook his head and swore. We told the dispatcher it was another hoax, we were now clear. We drove off joking about waiting for the pizza delivery guy who would surely be next... What a waste of time.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The watcher

The watcher was on shift again today.

I met her at a car accident. Her partner was doing all the work.
It doesn't matter how sick the patient is - she just stands there and watches everybody else work.
The watcher will do only what she is asked. No more. She just likes to watch.

When she was a student - I thought she was just overwhelmed.
Now she is qualified. Maybe she is still overwhelmed. But she doesn't look it.
She just looks disinterested. It frustrated me at first. Now, when I see patient care suffering because of it - it makes me angry.

I am ready to say something to the watcher. I want to remind her she is part of a team. I want to tell her that I believe patient care is very important. But you can hardly say boo to somebody now (no matter how nice you are) without being accused of bullying.


Tuesday, January 31, 2012

I'm unconscious - no really.

People pretend to be unconscious for all sorts of reasons. I've been to countless numbers of patients who for one purpose or another are pretending they are out for the count. I call this being funconscious because its not serious. There are some classic scenarios we see regularly - like the argument or domestic dispute that results in someone taking a little break from the day, the shoplifter whose booty stuffed handbag got the attention of store security, the drunk person who has sobered up just enough to realise that they made a complete fool of themselves and now have vomit in their hair and no taxi money. The bloke at the airport who just got told he’s missed his flight and now collapses to the ground with some bad fake seizure activity and then the usual eyes clenched shut, I’m really, really unconscious stuff follows.

You end up getting a good nose for picking the real deal from the Oscar winning performance. You get no points for picking the bloke who has flown through the air over the bonnet of the car and now has a head like a dropped watermelon. He will almost always be the real thing. It’s the unconscious person in the absence of all obvious reason for being unconscious that is where it gets interesting. There are a number of mnemonics in ambulance for remembering the broad groups of reasons people might be in an altered conscious state or unconscious. What these mnemonics show is there are literally hundreds of possible and potential causes. So we always default to the possibility that this may be real even when we know its not. There that should keep the do-gooders quiet.

I've been to little kids who "wouldn't wake up" who just turned out to be so heavily asleep that even picking them up out of their cot, gently shaking them and taking them out to a bright lounge room full of anxious new parents didn't phase them. I wish I could sleep like that. I can even kinda sympathise with grandpa who was so sick of his wife's constant nagging that he went to his happy place.

There are a few of things you can do to check for purposeful movement (which I wont go into here) and needless to say that the body's involuntary responses and reflexes will often undermine even the most determined efforts on the part of the prostrate (note the subtle but important difference in spelling) punter to stay unroused.

There are stories in every city of those who are true masters of the funconscious episode. These are the ones that everybody knows are putting it on. They are the repeat performers, the true Oscar winners who despite every trick in the book including painful stimulation and invasive airway manoeuvres that would make most of us gag and bring up lunch, are able to lie there and not give the game away. These are the ones who will suddenly recover at hospital, demand the toilet and tell the nurse to give them back their smokes. We sigh and say to each other – I knew she was faking it.

I always give people who are faking it the opportunity to ‘wake up with dignity’. There are always those people who have had such a crappy day that they are now lying there wishing very hard they were somewhere else. Whether you agree with it or not, these people do deserve an opportunity to muster some strength to re-face the day. Give people the opportunity to “recover” with their composure intact and they will often do it without vigorous prompting. There is a risk if you make people feel and look foolish that they will not respond well.

I remember an unconscious schoolgirl who was being teased in the playground and had fallen over in front of her tormentors. The concerned staff couldn’t wake her and the growing crowd was only making it worse. We cleared the area of kids and teachers and whispered to her that it was ok to wake up now. Amazingly she did.

Well, I'm off to become unconscious now for at least the next 8 hours...

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Hey there newbie!

Dear Student Paramedic,

A sincere welcome to your new career as a paramedic. You are commencing on a journey that is like no other. You will know within weeks of starting 'on-road' if this job is really for you. You will know this because your expectations will either quickly be met or left wanting. This job is rarely what people expect it to be. Mostly it is better. You will hopefully be one of the ones who is pleasantly surprised at what you find. This job will challenge and test you like not many other jobs can.

I don't know you, and the reality is we will probably never meet, but allow a crusty ambo to dish out a few words of advice:

Come along with an open mind. Leave your distain at home and bring your sympathy, empathy and understanding.

You will get back what you put out. If you behave like a twat and give people attitude, you will get attitude back. It happens, every time.

Treat every patient with the respect they deserve.

After you have been in the job for 15 minutes, you don't actually know it all. We love seeing you build in confidence and grow in skill, but you make a fool of yourself if you act like you have nothing to learn from the start. Take the time to learn from those around you - learn how things are done. Then you can see how things might be done better. Once you have been at it for a while - please question everything. That is how change happens and that is good.

When you have been in the job for a few years, try and remember what it was like to start on road - find a student paramedic and help them in a way that you would have appreciated when you began. We all know its daunting when you first start. That fear you have will subside.

If you are wrong - admit it. If you make a mistake, 'fess up and learn from it.

If you find this job is not for you and you don't enjoy it - that is nobody's fault, don't take that out on the patients or your colleagues. Go and find something else to do. There is a job out there just right for you.

Have a laugh. This job is actually very funny a lot of the time. So strive to be the best you can and enjoy it as you do.

So good luck, I hope you do enjoy it and stay safe out there.