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Be careful what you wish for: a difficult job on ambulance placement

Oliver Cubitt

Faculty: Health, Medicine and Social Care
School: School of Allied Health and Social Care
Course: BSc (Hons) Paramedic Science
Category: Allied and public health

30 July 2015

When first-year Paramedic Science student Oli remarked that he needed experience immobilising a patient with a suspected spinal injury, he wasn't expecting such a job to arise so soon.

So, it is coming to the end of this year’s placement and there are a few skills that I have yet to use, and therefore have not yet been signed off in my assessment PAD.

One of the skills that I needed signing off was the immobilisation of patients with a suspected spinal injury. I mentioned this to my mentor at the beginning of today’s shift, and he reassured me that if and when an appropriate job came, he would step back and allow me to take an active role in the immobilisation.

A harrowing job

This conversation came back to haunt me later on in the shift, when we were called to a ‘male fallen from tree, after attempted hanging’. We were informed en route that a solo paramedic was on scene and that the patient would require immobilising.

Although the process of immobilisation is a relatively simple one once you know what you are doing, the history behind the injury played on my mind as I fitted a collar to the patient in order to protect their C spine (neck).

These thoughts were further enhanced when looking in the tree to work out the height the patient had fallen and seeing the loose noose above me.


Once the patient was handed over at hospital, my mentor and I had a chance to debrief on this job and reflect on what we had done.

Both of us agreed that this had been a difficult job but, following a short break at hospital and a much-needed coffee, we were both ready to get back on the road and thankfully, our final job of the day was much simpler – a helipad transfer to A&E.

The moral of this story is to be careful what you wish for, as you may not like the outcome.

Also, it is important to reflect on hard jobs and not bottle them up. Don’t get me wrong, this job has not left me an emotional wreck, but it has highlighted that there are always going to be some harder calls.

The patient was stable and making a good recovery when we followed up at the end of the shift and will hopefully be receiving the help he needs to improve his quality of life.

Oli studies Paramedic Science at ARU in Cambridge. Find out more about this and other degree courses at one of our Open Days.



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