A day in the life of an Air Ambulance Paramedic

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Over the past two and a half years, Paul Mullins has saved countless lives. As an Air Ambulance paramedic, he attends serious accidents and emergencies every day of the week; from multi-vehicle accidents on the motorway, to people who have been injured in the middle of nowhere, to people suffering from life-threatening conditions such as cardiac arrests.

Talking about a typical working day as an Air Ambulance paramedic, Paul says: “What’s great about this job is that every day really is different. We never know what we’re going to get called to next. We attend such a variety of incidents that it’s impossible to predict where the next 999 call will take us.

“At the start of the day the crew participate in a briefing to discuss the day ahead; what the weather forecast is, how much fuel we are carrying etc. As part of the training process to become Air Ambulance paramedics we learn about the aviation aspects of the role as well as key skills to assist the pilot, such as navigation.

“We never know when the first call of the day will come. On average we attend three rescue missions a day, but this can vary, and in the summer months in particular we can find ourselves doing five or six jobs in a day.

“When the emergency phone rings, I or one of other paramedics will answer it while the pilot goes to start the helicopter. We plot the location of the incident on our map in the crew room; this gives us an estimated flying time as well as the initial direction we will be flying in.”

Derbyshire, Leicestershire & Rutland Air Ambulance will typically fly with one paramedic, one doctor, and one pilot. They never know what type of job they will be flying to; road traffic collisions are most common, equating to approximately 40% of rescue missions, with cardiac incidents and horse riding accidents each accounting for approximately 10%.

Paul continues: “We work as a crew to identify a suitable landing place. If it’s a road traffic collision, we sometimes have to work with the police so we can land on the road. If it’s somewhere tricky to land, like in the heights of the Peak District, then I may jump out of the helicopter with the equipment while the helicopter is hovering, the Pilot will then go and locate it nearby.

“The first thing we have to do is assess the scene to check it’s safe.

If other people such as land ambulance crew are already on scene we will obtain a brief situation report to gain a rapid overview of the incident.”

“The nature of the injuries that we deal with varies. Patients may be suffering from head injuries, multiple fractures, have lost a large amount of blood, be unconscious or not breathing.”

Air Ambulance doctors and paramedics are trained in pre-hospital emergency care and have advanced clinical skills, so they will begin treating the patient on the scene – in essence bringing the hospital to the patient. They may need to sedate the patient and they often need to administer pain relief. They will splint any injured limps and they immobilise the patients using items such as a neck collar to help prevent any other damage.

“We then fly the patient to the best hospital for their injuries – usually a major trauma centre. It may not always be the closest hospital, but the speed of the helicopter means we can take the patient to the place that they will receive the specialist treatment needed to give them the best chances of survival and recovery.

“After we land at the hospital, we provide a clinical handover to the hospital team, complete our documentation and repack our equipment. Then it could be back to the airbase for a debrief or straight on to another job.

“It can be incredibly hard work, we’re working in a high pressured environment and of course we see some terrible accidents, but it’s the best job in the world. One of the best parts of the job is meeting our former patients, to see them walking and talking with their family and friends, and to know that it is in part down to your help is amazing and makes it all worthwhile.”

Derbyshire, Leicestershire & Rutland Air Ambulance is one of the only Air Ambulances in the country that directly employs its paramedics, rather than employing them through the NHS. As a Charity that receives no Government or National Lottery funding, they rely entirely on public donations to fund the helicopter, the paramedics, and all the medical equipment needed at the scene of accidents and emergencies.

Paul says: “I can’t do my job without the generous support of members of the public so I’d encourage them to continue to dig deep and donate so that we can continue to save lives and make a difference across the two counties and beyond.”

To donate to Derbyshire, Leicestershire & Rutland Air Ambulance to help them continue their lifesaving work, text ‘PARA56’ and your amount to 70070. You can choose donate the following amounts £1, £2, £3, £4, £5 or £10. Alternatively, please visit www.theairambulanceservice.org.uk/paramedicpaul