THE BLOG

Ambulance Workers Don't Retire Anymore - They Burn Out

20/09/2017 09:31 | Updated 20 September 2017
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I have worked for the ambulance service for nine years and within the NHS for 12 years in total.

The chronic stress and anxiety has become part of the job description for ambulance staff.

Overworked, under resourced and dealing with terrible trauma every day - it's no wonder we're dropping like flies.

Unless you've done the job it's hard to describe what it's like. We don't have time to stop, to eat, to take stock. We just have to carry on - responding to the 999 calls that just keep stacking up, saving lives as best we can, without the back up and resources we need to do our job properly.

And it's not just the ambulance crews - the call handlers are under strain too. They are constantly answering calls from people in distress or screaming in pain down the phone while triaging patients and deploying resources when all the while we know our A&Es are full to capacity most days.

It's relentless, traumatic work. Call-after-call with no down time to absorb tragic events, moving from one emergency to another. There's always public attention after a major incident, but it's often the day to day strains that get you down.

As a paramedic, you never know what you're going to be confronted by or how long you are going to be working for. If you are due to finish at 7pm and a call comes in at 6.59pm - you obviously have to answer it. And you have to see it through - right to the end. You just don't question it. It's what the job demands, but everyone has their breaking point.

This additional time can take three or four hours. It's was worse on Friday and Saturday nights but now it's every day and night. You never know from one day to the next when or even if you'll get home to see your family. It's better when you're with your mates but occasionally you do have to respond on your own and you can end up in difficult and dangerous situations.

Most of my colleagues regularly don't stop to eat during a shift as saving lives takes priority or you forgo your break to try and finish on time so you get to see your family.

It takes a terrible strain on your home life. This level of stress, coupled with the lack of proper support and being confronted by horrific situations over and over again - it builds up and up inside you until you feel like you're going to blow.

Some days you feel like you just can't take it anymore.

Every ambulance worker loves their job - otherwise we wouldn't put up with the workload, poor pay and shocking conditions.

But many of us feel we are being pushed too far.

No-one thinks pay solves everything but it is true that we're underpaid. Theresa May says she 'values' us, but surely our value is more than 1%?

The role has also changed over the years. Some things have changed for the better: I've got colleagues who have permanent back problems from lifting patients when they didn't have proper equipment. But it's a bad joke to expect us to continue to 68. My colleagues don't retire any more, they just burn out.

Some of the challenges lie outside the ambulance service. We're at the sharp end of social care cuts. You can't magic these problems away. People don't have access to proper social care anymore, so they end up in ambulances and A&E instead.

So if health services were properly funded so our workloads didn't increase all the time, and we weren't sent out onto the front line without the resources we need, then maybe we could end the epidemic of stress and anxiety among ambulance staff.

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