‘Being a paramedic isn’t what you may think’ - first cohort of paramedic graduates lift the lid on why they are entering the profession

PUBLISHED: 18:16 01 August 2017 | UPDATED: 18:16 01 August 2017

The newly-qualified paramedics learning their skills as students: l-r Rachel Bell, Will Parker, Bethany Taylor, Tom Paddock and Emily Palman with instructor Dr Anita Thoppil to the side. Photo: UEA

The newly-qualified paramedics learning their skills as students: l-r Rachel Bell, Will Parker, Bethany Taylor, Tom Paddock and Emily Palman with instructor Dr Anita Thoppil to the side. Photo: UEA


The number of paramedics working in Norfolk and Suffolk has been boosted by almost 100 after the first cohort of paramedic science students graduated from the University of East Anglia (UEA).

Bethany Taylor. Photo: UEA Bethany Taylor. Photo: UEA

The new degree course, run in conjunction with the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust (EEAST), was designed to address the shortfall in recruitment and ensure that the ambulance service can continue to meet the needs of patients across the region.

Because of the wide range of situations they encounter all paramedics learn a variety of skills, from obstetrics and trauma to patient education for self-care and falls management, delivered in conjunction with many partner trusts in the East of England.

Marcus Bailey, consultant paramedic for EEAST, said: “I’m delighted to see so many fully-fledged paramedics completing their studies and graduating who are already providing a high level of patient care in their communities. It takes three years of hard work and dedication to become a paramedic and I’d like to congratulate everyone who has qualified and pay tribute to their commitment and the support of their families.

“Every year, demand on the ambulance service increases and the number of life-threatening calls goes up, which is why we have hired more than 800 student paramedics over the last three years and continue to support those studying to become the next generation of paramedics.”

Ben Law, from Lowestoft, said: “Since joining the ambulance service I’ve attended some horrendous jobs and seen things some people will never see, but I have also seen some truly amazing things including resuscitating a cardiac arrest patient, delivering a baby and having a cup of tea with an elderly gentleman while listening to his war stories. I came to realise quickly that our job isn’t just about the interventions we can perform, but also how just simply listening and talking to someone is where a large part of our workload lies. For me this is great as I love a good natter. But equally, sometimes that is all that is needed and can make such a difference in someone’s life.”

Tom Paddock became a paramedic after volunteering with St John Ambulance and will join EEAST in October and begin teaching at UEA from September.

He said: “I spent a summer volunteering alongside paramedics and realised that the profession was so much more than I’d thought. I switched from a natural sciences degree and it was very exciting that, as a new course, UEA wanted our input in developing the content and that their aim was to make us as good as we could be rather than just as good as we needed to be.

“A lot of people think being a paramedic is all about cardiac arrests, road traffic collisions and critical care but these constitute only 6-10pc of the patients we see in ambulance practice. The higher level assessment, diagnosis and care planning skills are used in the remaining 90-94pc of emergencies such as end of life care, mental health crises, acute social issues and other urgent care needs. These are the consultations where you have the most scope to use your knowledge and clinical judgement and where you make a real difference to a patient’s health outcomes.”

Bethany Taylor, who is now working as a frontline paramedic with EEAST, said: “The most challenging part of my job is dealing with some of the most emotionally difficult situations in people’s lives, which can be very stressful and even hostile. But it’s rewarding to make a difference to every single person I see and treat each day. No one trusts you to walk straight into their house in any other job and so I feel very proud to fulfil the role I do.”

Laura Brown already had a degree in psychology before studying for her paramedic science BSc and is currently working in West Norfolk.

“Providing acute care in the challenging pre-hospital setting is something I am passionate about,” she said. “Being a paramedic isn’t what you may think it will be – it’s much more. Getting out in the community, meeting patients and making differences at a grass roots level is incredibly rewarding. Pre-hospital medicine is a challenge area, particularly in rural Norfolk. You are often with sick patients for extended periods of time with minimal resource. Managing this, doing the best for your patients and making sound clinical decisions is both challenging and rewarding.”

Rosie Doy, reader in health sciences at UEA, said: “We’re extremely proud of all our graduating students, who have proved their resilience, motivation and compassion, having already encountered may challenging and distressing situations. Every shift brings difficult assessments and decisions.

“Being a paramedic isn’t just about responding to an emergency and getting a patient safely to hospital, it’s also about preventing avoidable admissions by getting people access to the support services they need, whether that’s social care or, increasingly, support for mental health issues, frail older people and those living with dementia.”

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