That newly qualified wobble

I’ve worked on the frontline of the Ambulance service for almost 6 years. I’ve been to my fair share of horrific jobs and in the words of my veteran crew mate, I’ve “got chops” (I smiled and said thanks when he said it, but don’t really know what it means. I assume it means I’ve got bragging rights). 

For the last year prior to qualifying, I’ve been working all but autonomously with my Paramedic crew mates; assessing, making decisions about treatment, administering drugs and handing over to hospital staff. I’ve been confident in my decision making and felt happy to take the lead. Albeit with a safety net of my colleague sat next to me. 

Last month I completed my degree course, qualified and registered as a Paramedic. “Finally” I thought to myself!

So, I’m now in a position to do all of the above; assessing, making decisions about treatment, administering drugs and handing over to hospital staff, BUT it will be on my registration and me signing the paperwork off. I still feel confident and competent and am looking forward to the challenge. 

Imagine my horror then, at the following. 

999 call to a 12 month old little girl who is “hard to wake”. My crew mate and I make good progress through the busy city traffic in our big Mercedes Ambulance, sirens wailing as we speed to the address. 

Upon our arrival the front door is ajar, we grab all of our kit (4 bags, oxygen cylinder, tablet computer and defib) and head in calling “hello, ambulance” as we tentatively enter the house. 

We’re called into the living room by the patient’s dad, who’s holding little one in his arms. She looks round at me as I introduce us which reassures me she’s fully conscious and alert. We take a brief history from dad which includes details of breathlessness for 2 days and a fever. Reduced food intake and being tired and clingy. 

Between my crew mate and I, we take a full set of observations which give us her respiratory rate, heart rate, temperature, blood glucose level and a test to establish how well perfused she is by pinching her finger and seeing how quickly it returns to a normal colour (sometimes the simple tests are the most effective).

We establish that although she seems calm, she’s working hard at breathing with an increased respiratory rate. Her heart rate is also raised. 

6 weeks ago, I would’ve made my decision. Bosh. Sorted. Confident and competent, remember? But I sat there looking at the child, looking at her numbers and I could not for the life of me make a decision about what to do. 

I knew she needed to see a Doctor but couldn’t decide whether to refer her to the out of hours GP or take her directly to A&E.

Her dad was sensible and would’ve known what to look for should we decide to leave her. But what if she deteriorates. Equally I don’t want to fill an A&E bed with a child that could be treated easily in the community. A hundred thoughts whizz through my mind but I could not extract a decision.

After what felt like an age (but was less than 30 seconds) I decided to convey the child to A&E for urgent assessment by a Doctor. 

We took her in, she needed no treatment or drugs so it was an uneventful journey. I had a nice chat to her Dad about this’n’that, and handed her over to the hard working team at the local A&E.
Afterwards I spoke with my Paramedic colleague when we got back to station and confessed that I had struggled to make a decision. 

“It’s completely normal” she reassured me. “You looked at all the facts and made the right decision based on what you had, it was fine.”

Apparently a ‘newly qualified wobble’ is quite normal, and shows that we care about our patients and outcomes. 

My crew mate tonight has been a Paramedic for upwards of 30 years and said he still airs on the side of caution if he’s doubting a decision. That helps 🙂 

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