The Sleeping Paramedic
This is a real time image of exhaustion in the Ambulance Service.
I took this photo last year, Initially I took it as a joke, to wind my crew mate up later down the line. But seeing this photo challenge I thought it would be appropriate to show this photo.
Shot on an Iphone XS max. No filters applied, No editing, only the auto focusing to blur the background slightly. The angle of the photo was defined by my angle in the cab of the ambulance, it is the view that I have of my crew mate, the view that nobody else gets to see.
In case you hadn't guessed, I'm a Paramedic in my day job, and this is my crew mate. We work a shift pattern of 4 on 4 off, which means 2 12hr days followed by 2 12hr nights, followed by 4 days off, then we do it all again. Quite often we also fill in some of our rest days with overtime to make up our salary.
Ambulance shifts are very unpredictable, but normally, we sign onto our shift at 7am and go straight out on a "job" to see a patient. Once we leave station it is very rare that we return until after our finish time. We are ment to finish at 7pm, but often we dont get back until 8pm. As we personally work out of a small station attached to a firestation we dont often return there for break, but instead our break is taken at another station close to the hospital. We are only guarrenteed a 30 minute break in a 12hr shift.
Sometimes our shifts are very physical, we carry a lot of heavy equipment as well as carrying patients down several flights of stairs. We lift people off the floor and working a cardiac arrest is a lot more phyisical than you think. We have aches and pains, we rely on pain relief sometimes just to fuction.
This photo was taken on a rare moment of down time, we got back to staion for about half an hour. My crew mate had fallen asleep whilst I was driving there. From the outside it may appear lazy, you may wonder if we have other work to be doing in between seeing patients - and yes sometimes we do, but not all the time. In between patients we try to relax, recover and mentally prepare for what the rest of the day has instore. Sometimes we partake in research, trainind or further learning to improve our clinical skills. But this day, I let him rest.
What you don't see in this photo is the jobs we did prior to my crew mate falling asleep and the taking of this photo.
That day, we had done 4 jobs prior to this photo. We started the morning by attending to an elderly lady who had fallen and broken her femur. We did a lot for her administering pain relief and carrying her down the stairs before taking her to hospital. We then saw another elderly patient who was unable to cope at home on their own anymore, they had no family or carers, we spent a couple of hours trying to find suitable social care and speaking to social workers to find the best possible care for the patient. This is very mentally draining. The third job of the day was a woman in labour, the baby was immenant, I wont go into the gory details, but between us we delivered a healthy baby girl and transported mum and baby to maternity. We then got a short break, which was disturbed after 25 mins so we could attend a cardiac arrest. This was a "working" arrest, meaning that CPR must be commenced, due to complications we ended up doing CPR for an hour. This is very physically exhausting. The patient died, despite our best efforts. We returned to our station whilst waiting for our next job, and thats when I took this photo.
Like I said earlier, I initally captured this photo to wind him up later, we are still human, we still have a laugh, but when public facing we are very professional. We are still human, we need rest, we need recovery we need food. I thought showing this photo with the story of our day might help people to understand why they occasionally see us doing odd things whilst we are not with a patient. It might make people think twice about complaining when they see us grabbing a coffee or a sandwich. It might just show how physically draining our job is. It might make people consider other options before calling for an ambulance if its not a true emergency.
But no matter how tired we are, we always turn up if we are needed and always try our best to help you.
This is not a staged photo. It is real time, real life, showing the unseen side of the Ambulance Service.
I would say something like never wake a sleeping paramedic, or let sleeping paramedics lie... but unfortnatly that's unrealistic. Maybe just dont give us a hard time when we do turn up to help you. Help us to help you, we dont want much, just do your best to answer the questions we ask, honesty and acurate timelines are the easiest way to help us help you. We can take it from there.
Thanks for reading.