Meet the University’s Junior Paramedics as they take their knowledge from the classroom to the front line for BBC Three series

Date 16.11.2015

Nine University of Northampton Paramedic Students are featuring in a BBC Three series entitled ‘Junior Paramedics’, which will follow them as they embark on their first work placements with mentors from East Midlands Ambulance Service.

The series documents their relationships with their mentors as they embark on their first work placement for their Foundation Degree Course and learn what life is really like on the front line.

The students undertook eight weeks of intensive training at the University of Northampton before going out on the road, and as Lucy Mellor, 20 from Derby explains, the group felt well prepared:

“The lecturers on our course worked out specifically what is needed for our first placement so eight weeks before we went out, we knew the basic skills and the rest we will learn over time. The first placement aims to build confidence and our mentors teach us half of what we learn. I’d practiced in the classroom but it isn’t the same as real life, as an actual person can communicate with you and will tell you how they feel. In a way it’s easier in a real life situation.”

Fellow student Victoria Hilditch, 25, from Stoke-on-Trent, adds: “I felt prepared when going out on my first placement as the responsibility wasn’t solely on my shoulders that early on. As a student, I only got involved in things that matched my skillset. My mentor explained why they were treating the patient in that particular way so I was able to experience first-hand the correct way to deal with different situations.”

The students featured in the programme come from various backgrounds, with different levels of prior experience. 20-year-old Lucy Wright, from Sutton in Ashfield, undertook some volunteer work before applying for the course: “I did a bit of observing with the Ambulance Service before my first placement so I half knew what to expect.” Nick Bailey, 24, from Leicester, found that his volunteer work with St John Ambulance was a good grounding in taking a step towards his career as a paramedic. He explained: “The most challenging part of being a paramedic is remembering to do everything that you’ve been taught in the right order at the right time and making sure that you don’t forget anything that can be detrimental to the patient.”

Nineteen-year-old Amy Allen from Newcastle describes being a paramedic as ‘the best job in the world’ and feels she has grown since starting the course. “I have found that I am a stronger person than I thought I was and I have become more confident when talking to people. It’s very important to be a good communicator, as well as compassionate in this kind of job.”

The group have various nuggets of advice for people considering a career as a paramedic. Steph Cook, 18, from Northamptonshire, explains: “I advise people to be prepared to be shocked. One of the things that shocked me is I had never been around drugs, and on my first day I went to a cocaine overdose. I was shocked and amazed at the way people can be. I’d have to be dying or really poorly to call an ambulance, but you go to people who call as they have a bruise, or they want a flu jab. It can be frustrating if something comes over the radio and you’re dealing with this.”

Twenty year old Bryn Griffiths from Bedfordshire believes: “Communication skills are a must in this job. You have got to be able to talk to people. That’s the biggest thing I’ve learnt from my first placement. Every paramedic I’ve been on shift with will go out to a call, start talking to the patient and bring a sense of calm to the situation. They walk in and they’ll make you relax, which is of benefit to the patient. It is a skill you have to learn and build upon, but it’s a skill you definitely need to have.”

Ashley Jane Strawbridge, 27 from London, says: “I still have moments of uncertainty and I went into this knowing that there would be these moments when I wouldn’t know what to say. For instance, when taking a terminally ill patient to a hospice, on her last trip. It’s hard to read someone and know what to say and not make it more painful for them. No matter how competent you are at communicating, everyone reacts differently and sometimes people just need you to be there for them.”

Throughout their course, the students are fully supported by both their tutors at the University of Northampton and their mentors. Nineteen-year-old Max Brufton explains: “The University has supported me really well. If you have a bad day and need to talk, there’s always someone you can talk to. You don’t feel ignored or forgotten when on placement, you’re always being checked on. They want to make sure we’re well supported and that we’re enjoying it, as there’s no point if you’re not enjoying it. You can ask your mentor anything.”

Bryn continued: “Our mentors support us but push us to progress. It is very intense as you are doing the work of the Ambulance Service – there’s nothing that they hold you back from. You literally go out to everything. We’re not paramedics yet, and we don’t know everything, so there are points where you get stumped.”

You can follow the progress of the nine students every Thursday at 9pm on BBC Three.

Image courtesy of BBC/Chuck Douglas.