The day had eventually come and it was finally my first day on placement, it was 5am and still very much dark outside. I got myself showered, put on my freshly ironed uniform and looked in the mirror; I felt the biggest sense of pride I think I had ever really felt. This was it, the start of the rest of my career and my first ever day on the job; so, I grabbed my bag and my lunch, jumped in the car and set off.
I arrived at the station nice and early, precisely 15 minutes before the start of my shift (as I had been instructed to do so by university) and met my paramedic mentor who was waiting for me outside. This wasn’t the first time I’d met my mentor as I had already arranged to see him the week before to have a look around the ambulance station and to get to know him a bit better, this I felt was a massive help and I would definitely recommend that anybody did the same. My mentor took me up to the crew room and introduced me to everyone on the day shift, this was now my cue to go and put the kettle on (if I could give you one big tip it would be to ALWAYS make the tea and try to supply biscuits as often as possible). Everyone on station seemed friendly and I soon felt at ease with the ‘station banter’. My next tip would definitely be to not take yourself too seriously, ambulance staff work crazy shifts seeing sometimes awful sights of injury and illness. Humour is a definitely an in-built coping mechanism.
It was finally time to check the vehicle and I let my mentor take the lead on this one, I think it’s vital for the first few shifts that you observe and try to learn as much as you can before you jump in and try it for yourself. Remember, your mentor has probably been doing this job for a long time and will be able to help you find your feet. And with that the MDT* went off and it was time for job number one, I couldn’t wait!
So, to summarise I would like to give you a list of my ‘top tips’ to survive the first day on placement; they’re not definitive and I think everyone has their own suggestions but hopefully this may help some of you:-
Always make sure you put on enough deodorant, you never know when you’re going to be getting into some pretty sweaty situations (think CPR and carrying people down long flights of stairs), and you certainly do NOT want to be the one who smells!
Pack a suitable lunch. It’s not always practical to eat your meals on station so make sure you take something with you that you can eat on the go, or if you have the luxury of spare money then there will usually be a shop close by.
Make tea, tea and more tea! Oh and bring biscuits, (everyone loves a chocolate digestive).
Be polite, make conversation and join in with the banter.
Learn as much as you can from your mentor, question them and watch them – they’re paramedics already you know.
And lastly, please, please, please have FUN!!! Placement doesn’t last forever and before you know it, it will be time to do it all on your own.
*MDT - Mobile Data Terminal: The computer in the ambulance jobs are passed through from the control room.