This guest blog has been emailed to us, anonymously, by an Emergency Medical Dispatcher (EMD).
It gives a unique insight into the many challenges which are faced by EMD’s under an increased workload which many on the frontline feel has been exasperated by the fact that too many people are abusing the 111 / 999 system.
For example, people calling 111 because they dropped their mobile phone on their head whilst trying to take a selfie. Or people calling 999 because someone has told them that, 13 years ago, they ingested some drain cleaner…
Some of the details in the blog have been changed so as to protect the identity of those involved:
‘I’m sat here in a bar, the night after my shift block which included bank holiday Sunday.
I’ve worked in the emergency services as an Emergency Medical Dispatchers for less than 12 months.
I started in the winter pressures of 2017.
In my first few months I dealt with a lot of bad calls and not much fazed me.
This is because you don’t really have a chance to think. I would also say it’s because I came in with heart of stone. Nothing really affected me.
However recently more and more calls are starting to make me feel for the callers and patients. None more evident to me than a call I took on bank holiday Monday:
Just after 0300 hours I get a call from the family of a 16-year-old male.
He has stopped breathing and the caller states he’s taken the drug known as ‘magic’.
I don’t get to know any of the circumstances behind this call, as a lot of my colleagues will know, you deal with what is in front of you.
So I deal with it, giving the (hopefully lifesaving) advice I can before the EMT PARAS AND AP’s get there [Emergency Medical Technicians, Paramedics and Advanced Practitioners].
After finishing the call, I can take a little break to get over it there and then if needed, but as many EMD’s can testify to now you need time to reflect and process what has just happened.
A CPR on ANYONE but a child you learn to cope with whilst working and you move on – take the next call and forget it.
However you never truly forget.
You just put it out the way until you get a rest.
There wasn’t anything particularly traumatic about this call. This means that unless I seek out help none will be offered to me.
Now this is not a slight on the service I work for. I get it, we are expected to be able to cope. Any EMD worldwide will agree. However in the UK I think we are truly unique with NHS.
We deal with the worst and the damn right daft.
In between taking the call and getting to find out the outcome was three hours.
In this time I took multiple calls which to anyone in the ambulance service would be defined as low acuity. I.E see your GP if it continues for a few days. In fact my very next call started “well I rang 111”.
Now this blog isn’t about 111 calls, but I believe if we didn’t have to deal with the amount of these 111 calls which we do, then support for the front line staff would be so much better for a multitude of reasons most staff could spout off in their sleep.
Now onto why I included I’m in bar. I have began as a coping mechanism going out, not necessarily drinking, but going out and thinking.
Tonight as I have written this I have been close to tears multiple times.
This is partly because I know of how this tragic story ended. However it is also because I can’t help but think of the deceased’s family and friends.
As EMD’s we, as most of us are, are underpaid but we deal with a lot more especially considering we are not clinically trained in most cases.
But I feel we lack the support we need.
I’ve been sat here at times tonight wondering whom I can talk to, to get my feelings out. We have to follow confidentiality.
We have to suffer in silence in most cases, out of embarrassment as most of us are in the same boat, and don’t want to appear vulnerable.
So we don’t open up to each other or other control room staff.
Now I know I could go to my GP get a sick note or some tablets and up signed off for a long time. Now I don’t want that.
I enjoy helping those that need the help. I’ve written this as an exercise in self-evaluation and cathartics. I don’t expect many to sympathise. I wouldn’t in a public setting, sympathise with others in a similar position but everything needs to change.
I won’t go in and tell my managers or supervisors how I feel.
I will go in and take the next call I get and move on. But it isn’t right!
Any other patients I get on the phone will get a diluted version of my feelings, all the while never deviating from the “customer service” I’m expected to deliver.
They will get the same help any other EMD will give.
And get the paramedics when they need them.
BUT NEXT TIME; PARAMEDICS POLICE AND FIRE, THINK OF HOW US IN CONTROL FEEL.
You may get a debrief and few hours to go and talk, while after the call for that traumatic incident and you dealing and going for the debrief.
We have taken 30-40 more emergency calls.
And put on a front of forgetfulness you wouldn’t even notice.’
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