March 2021, mid global pandemic with a much altered way of clinical practice within the outpatient department, managing people movement, constant risk assessment, scared staff, patients and clinicians and most of my colleagues redeployed to assist other clinical areas. A bitterly cold Monday morning and my colleague wanders past me and utters ‘Oh, Paul you have a student coming’, not an unusual thing to hear but it was quickly followed by ‘they are starting today about 9am, travelling from Edinburgh as they are a Paramedic’.
I felt panicked, anxious, underprepared and wondered if I even had any credentials that could be deemed suitable for a Paramedic student. However, I never had time to dwell on my feelings, I had clinics to set up and staff to organise.
9:30am and I am summoned to the reception desk – ‘your student is here’ I hurried along, introduced myself and quickly showed him around like I would a nursing student or a new member of the team – after all he now was a member of our team for the next few weeks.
As with any student I support it is my responsibility to facilitate an initial meeting and set out the learning contract, I don’t normally mind this part of being a mentor but I felt out of my depth this time, almost an imposter feeling!! However, honesty is best and I explained the very last minute notification and lack of course understanding but committed to providing the best possible experience I could. Time to panic and call upon anyone and everyone possible to help!!
Devising a learning contract meant strong collaboration and calling upon my knowledge of the Scottish Ambulance Service (as well as years of watching Casualty, inside the ambulance, etc) and what types of skills they may well need. This led me down the path of more enhanced skills that final placement nursing students don’t always achieve; I had to rethink learning opportunities. Exposure to different medical clinics seemed to be the way forward and ultimately it allowed the student to practice his skills and observe different procedures such as visualisation of the upper airway via nasoendoscope, Pacemaker insertion, ECHO, Cardioversions and many more. Under the guidance of consultants or specialist nurses he was able to auscultate a chest, interpret ECG readings, and understand the management of different conditions such as COPD, Heart Failure and Diabetes. Building on communication skills naturally came as the student became more confident with his clinical assessments.
The Paramedic placements last on average 3 weeks meaning that they can be full on and intense but so far it seems to have been a very positive experience for all of the paramedic students that I have had the privilege of supporting through their placement. At times the placements overlap with that of nursing students. Feedback from the crossover is always positive and supportive of interdisciplinary working, often sharing skills and experience which emulates what it can be like in practice.
‘’This placement has been fantastic from my perspective and I feel like I’ve experienced far more than many would on a first non-ambulance placement. I have gained a general understanding of the hospital environment and seeing the patient journey has been of huge benefit to me.’’
To receive feedback like this reassures me that last minute planning and teams pulling together to create a learning opportunity pays off. I could not have achieved anything without the many clinicians, specialist nurses, clinical physiologists and students helping me and of course the Practice Education team. This was and remains very much a team approach!! Well done to everyone involved and thank you!
By Paul Muir, Nurse & Resus Officer, Practice Educator / Clinical Assessor, NHS Dumfries and Galloway.