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Ambulance Care Assistant

A day in the life of an Ambulance Care Assistant…

Hello, my name’s Eric and I’ve been a non-emergency Ambulance Care Assistant for 14 years.

It’s a cliché, but it’s true; no two patients nor two days in this job are the same.

I take pride in helping people, getting to know the regulars and spotting if something is not quite right. This can involve lighting a pilot-light to get someone’s heating going before we leave or getting
someone who is usually housebound out to a care centre in the community for a change of scene.

People are fascinating and I never tire of hearing about patients’ lives and getting to know them.

8am

I arrive at the Wythenshawe depot for my shift. Crewman John Webster and I check the vehicle; it must be clean and equipped with wheelchairs, stretchers, gloves, dressings and oxygen. We travel to 12 different Manchester hospital trusts, 50 care homes, numerous GP surgeries and clinics across the region.

9am

Our first patient is a 93-year-old lady with limited mobility and failing eyesight. Using a wheelchair to exit her flat, we take her for a dental appointment. She is clearly happy to be out and chats for the entire journey. We are allocated her return journey whereby on seeing us she shouts: “Hello again, what do you think of my new teeth?” and flashes a great beaming smile.

More than 74 per cent of my patients are over the age of 70 and 50 per cent are over 81. Patients can be worried, sometimes disorientated, and are often alone. For many, we are their only human contact outside of their care package. We provide interaction, support – and I’ve even been known to light the odd pilot-light to get their heating going. I get to know my regulars, some of whom we help for years.

11am

We assist with a discharge patient who is in his mid-sixties and medically fit to go home but after four days on the ward he is unhappy and anxious. We gather his belongings and tablets, take him home and make sure he is settled. 

1.30pm

We arrive at Manchester’s busiest A&E to take a patient home. We need to check this one carefully as the booking indicates a complex patient who may require specialist equipment and additional crew. When bookings are made, details about mobility, age, and special needs are given to the call-takers who allocate the correct crew and vehicle. If vital information is given incorrectly or is incomplete it results in delays. The right vehicle and crew must be matched with the patient.

We assess her mobility and the access to her home. The weather is bad. We proceed but the patient is agitated. In cases like this it’s about making the patient feel at ease and spending a little more time.

We get her home and her carers hoist the patient into her armchair. She relaxes as she sees familiar faces and we leave knowing she is happy.

Originally I wanted to be a paramedic, after working in care, but I love this job too much. Although this may be considered a tough, unglamorous job, I wouldn’t change it for the world.

3.30pm

We pick up a 12-year-old boy, booked as a stretcher case, to attend a fracture clinic appointment. Accompanied by a nurse and his mother, this patient is on a ventilator with suction equipment. The young boy can’t communicate verbally and has very little physical movement but his mother and nurse are aware when he is uncomfortable and explain the signals.

As we head out of the front door the patient, wrapped up in blankets and comfortable on our stretcher, enjoys feeling the sunshine on his face.

The final bit of the day can be the busiest as control allocates jobs urgently to help hospitals clear beds. Patients are discharged and outpatients need returning home. It is unpredictable but if the NHS is busy, we work late. The service has to be flexible.

Once we receive a return to base message from control we head back to clean the vehicle, replenish stock and sometimes hand it over to the next crew who start the 6pm to 1am shift.

On a good day I’m home by 6.30pm and I usually go out and play squash, or go mountain biking to relax. My head can be full of comments from people I’ve met that day and scenarios we’ve assessed. Though I live alone, I often organise events with my colleagues from the base and former colleagues who work elsewhere in the service. I’m planning a hike in the Peak District with some guys from the base and friends who work in A&E.

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