Interview: Hannah Wall – Ambulance Paramedic

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Instagram vs. mid night shift reality

by Chloe Thornton

19.12.18

Interview: Hannah Wall – Ambulance Paramedic

 

My name is Hannah, I’m 30 years old and I live at the very start of the Great Ocean Road but work in the western suburbs of Melbourne as a paramedic. 

When I’m not at work I’m traipsing around the globe (as much as I can be!), relaxing with friends and family, or trying to surf with my boyfriend. I love to spend time outdoors (hiking, camping, snowboarding, running etc), move my body (daily- it keeps me sane), to read, eat, cook, and listen to and see live music. The rest of the time I’m on the coast relaxing in the hammock or sitting on the couch under a blanket, watching Netflix, online shopping and cuddling our cat.

 

Job title:

Ambulance Paramedic 

 

What does your current job entail?

 

I work 10-14 hour shifts in an Ambulance responding to 000 calls which are triaged by a call centre based on their level of acuity. We respond to time critical medical emergencies, such as chest pain, strokes, unconscious patients and trauma such as burns, accidents, or bleeds. Lower acuity jobs can be referred to a GP, pharmacist or nurse on call (and careful consideration should be made prior to calling an ambulance!).

My work partner & I start the day by spending 15-30 minutes checking the ambulance is fully equip with everything we need and that all our gear is in working order. After this, we’ll try and grab a coffee and then our day revolves around responding to the calls we receive via our pagers and radios. We drive to, assess, perform an array of management and transport patients to hospital, then complete paperwork (and repeat!). Every “job” we attend is different and can take anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours depending on the complexity of the patient’s condition or extrication in the setting of trauma (falls, car accidents etc).

 

What/who inspired you to become an paramedic? Did you always know you wanted to work as an paramedic?

 

I think my dad being a nurse was partly what inspired me, I’d always loved his stories, primarily those from his days working in the emergency department or really dramatic cases in theatre- I did consider nursing but had decided it wasn’t for me. Paramedics never really entered my mind though. I knew nothing about the ambulance service and only actually got ambulance insurance once I’d started the degree! I’d done a Bachelor of Health Science majoring in Public Health and worked in fashion retail while studying.

Something clicked one day though and I realised I could do a lot of what dad did but outside and on the go. I text a friend who’d done 1 year of a Paramedic/Nursing degree before deferring (indefinitely) to travel and asked if she thought I’d like it- she said yes, absolutely, in fact she considering going back to study. So we both applied/reapplied! And ever since that moment sometime around the age of 25 it’s all I’ve wanted to do. 

 

Where did you do your training and how long did it take?

 

I studied a Bachelor Of Health Science (Paramedics) at Victoria University. The degree was 3 years- combined with my prior studies though I was at uni for 7 years!

 

What has the path, from commencement of study to now, looked like for you? Has there been any change in direction?

 

For me the process has all been pretty linear, the degree I did was very vocational, with a strong focus on a career as a Paramedic- the only real question at the end is where you will work (state/country).

 

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve overcome to be where you are today?

 

The process of applying for and gaining employment with Ambulance Victoria! We were told while studying that the number of graduates to jobs made it really competitive and to prepare ourselves for the possibility of going interstate, overseas or not get a job at all. The process was tough and anyone who knows me will attest to it was being one of the most stressful times of my life.

Once I was accepted I was over the moon but I had no idea how challenging and intense the first year, as a graduate Paramedic, would be. It involves working with senior paramedic, passing regular hurdles and finally completing a day of theory and practical exams. By this stage we are expected to know the clinical guidelines inside out in as well as all the main disease pathologies we attend. Combine this with being challenged daily by patient presentations, learning new skills and an introduction to shift work (and 14 hour nightshifts), it’s a big year! Passing the exams at the end of the grad year was a huge relief and since then I’ve really been able to enjoy the job, but am definitely still learning new things and challenged every day!

 

What is your favourite thing about your job?

 

Interacting with people is number 1, I love being able to have a chat and a joke and hopefully use communication skills as much as my paramedic skills to improve a persons ‘worse day’. Interacting with my colleagues is also great, I work with some absolute legends- good working relationships are so important when working in a dynamic and uncontrolled environment. 

Second to that the unpredictability and changing nature of the work from day to day is great, you never know what the day bring and will certainly never be bored. 

 

What is your least favourite thing about your job?

 

Poor patient outcomes can be challenging to deal with. Even when everyone does their best sometimes it just is the way it is. We’re lucky to be well supported by the service, and difficult jobs are always flagged and followed up by a peer support service.

Other than that 14 hour night shifts are a brutal but necessary part of the job usually made easier by salty and sweet popcorn and humour.

 

 

What sticks out to you as the most important lesson you’ve learnt in your career so far?

 

Never judge people for the situation they’re in, it’s a privilege to be invited into their house in their time of need regardless of whether they live in a leafy upper class suburb or if they live in a government commission house. You don’t know why or how people are in the position that they’re in. 

In fact I’ve gained the most experience and perspective working in low socioeconomic areas. 

 

Any special areas of interest that you may explore in the future?

 

I’m really interested in indigenous health (a big part of my first degree) so a secondment to an indigenous community would be amazing and potentially made more of a realistic goal since Paramedicine becoming a national Registered Profession as of the 1st of December this year!

 

What tips or words of wisdom would you share with someone thinking of becoming a paramedic?

 

Talk to as many people as you can to try and figure out if it’s for you- because it’s not for everyone. If in doubt, go for it- I couldn’t speak more highly of the service or the job, I think I have the best job in the world.

Secondly if you do go on to study, on your university placements use every opportunity to get involved as much as you can. The crew you’re working with will love having a helpful spare set of hands and it’ll prepare you more for life on road when the time comes!

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