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Three members of my family were already in the Ambulance Service...and I became number four!

I left College in 1993, and after studying a Business & Finance course I was all set and on my way to study Law at University.  Although it’s been my nature to want to help others, I had not considered a career in the Ambulance Service until I heard that there were vacancies in the Mid Glamorgan Ambulance Control.  This gave me cause to re-evaluate my future options so I decided to apply, was successful and spent the next 11 years there.  I’ve never looked back since.

I started work for the former Mid Glamorgan Ambulance Service as a Control Room Assistant.  My duties were varied, dealing with general enquiries, computer data input for Patient Transport Service requests from Hospitals and GP Surgeries and also taking receipt of emergency 999 calls.  Ambulance Control is the nerve centre of the Ambulance Service, a daily challenging environment to work in, and can truthfully say I enjoyed my time there.  In 1995, I was chosen to take part in an exchange programme with a group of local Paramedics and visit American Controllers and Fire Rescue Paramedics in Denver, Colorado, USA.  For me, this was a trip of a life-time and it first made me realize this possibly is a career path I’d like to aspire to in the future.

I later became the joint Medical Dispatch Facilitator (AMPDS) for the South East Region of Wales, which involved audit and performance management for Call Takers and working closely with EMS colleagues.  At this point in my career, I wanted to pursue a more challenging role and during 2003, I applied for a post as an Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Trainee Ambulance Technician. I was interviewed in North Wales and in Swansea, and was fortunate enough to be offered posts in both Regions, but decided to accept a post closer to home, at Maesteg Ambulance Station. 

Two years later, I was on a Paramedic course held at the North Wales Training School, Abergele.  The training course was tough.  I was told by a colleague it would be stressful, and it was!  The pressure was on, I was a long way from home, I studied until midnight most days due to fact that there was a lot information needed to be learnt in such a small amount of time.  The residential course lasted for 7 long weeks, covering areas such as Cardiac, Respiratory and Nervous Systems, Trauma, Advanced CPR, Paediatrics and even Maternity!  However, the Training Officers there were great and very supportive.  I then had 5 weeks hospital placement where I gained valuable experience working in A&E, Cardiac Care Unit and at Theatre where my new Paramedic skills such as cannulations and endotrachael intubations were developed.  Qualities that make a good Paramedic are having a genuine desire to help others, be willing to learn and apply that knowledge, have good communication / people skills and common sense!  

I soon transferred back to my home Region and worked alongside a Paramedic colleague for 18 months, based at Gelli Ambulance Station, gaining valuable guidance and practice as a qualified Paramedic. During 2007, I then successfully attained the position to work alone on a car known as a Rapid Response Vehicle. (RRV)

The RRV provides a prompt response and is usually sent to the most serious emergency 999 calls, known as Category A - potential life threatening problems.  These are people who have become suddenly unwell at home or work and may be suffering a Heart Attack, a Stroke or having Breathing Problems.  Other situations could be a serious road traffic collision or a house fire.  I mainly cover the Rhondda Valley area, but as a last resort could be sent to any emergency that may be within the South East Region of Wales.  The aim of the RRV is to constantly roam the community, and provide a safe 8 minute response target.  This can place a degree of pressure due to the vast area I cover, however I tend to stay close to known hot-spots.

When I arrive at an address, it’s my job to quickly assess the patient, identify the likely cause of illness and using my training, skills and applying my knowledge, provide the necessary treatment or support until the arrival of my EMS colleagues in an ambulance.  I enjoy the added responsibility of making antonymous decisions about the treatment of my patient and knowing in some cases, where seconds count, I’m making that difference happen by doing my best.  I’m equipped with a defibrillator, a response bag containing various medical drugs including oxygen and airway maintenance, everything needed to help the patient before being transported to A&E.

I work 12 hour shifts and share a roster with four other colleagues.  Our shift patterns are varied throughout the week, for a day shift I would start at 07:00 and finish at 19:00 and a late shift, start at 14:00 and finish at 02:00, this includes weekends and bank holidays.

Last year I had a call to a suspected stroke victim. I knew the address as soon as it came over the radio and I was there in moments. The patient was an elderly man who’d had a seizure in his living room, and the family had gathered round but didn’t know what to do.  As I entered the door to the room, the patient’s wife shouted to him ‘it’s the paper boy here!’  I used deliver newspapers to that house many years before.  After treating him with drugs, I travelled with him to the hospital in the ambulance.  Thankfully his condition stabilized in A&E and then I went to visit the family to check they were ok.  The family sent a lovely letter of thanks to the Ambulance Station and I and two colleagues had a photograph taken with him.

Working on EMS, it’s possible to experience the various extremes of joy and sadness in a single shift.  We can be helping and making that difference count and then late,r being confronted with a patient who have sustained the most horrific injuries.  It’s tough.  Many people say that they couldn’t do my job because they’d not be able to cope, but having a genuine desire to help people during their moment of need, backed by the training and the skills I have, just by me doing my very best for that patient and with the emotional support of colleagues and my family. Above all, I love my job and wouldn’t change it for the world.

NEIL PHELPS
36 yrs of age
RAPID RESPONSE PARAMEDIC - Based at Gelli Ambulance Station





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