Samantha: What you need to know about life on road

Sammy is in her third year studying a Bachelor of Paramedicine. She is Mum to a three-year-old boy, loves anything crafty, and has a passion for everything pre-hospital.

So, you’ve almost finished your first year of uni (yay!). You’ve passed all of your courses, your medical assessment and blood tests, which is no mean feat. To your surprise and delight, you have been assigned to a station for your very first placement with the Queensland Ambulance Service (*screams internally*). Everything you have been working for, and all you have been talking about all year, is here, and is about to get VERY real (send help?). Whether you are about to experience life ‘on road’ for the first time, or you are considering studying to become a Paramedic, then what I have to say may be of interest to you. My name is Sammy. I am a third-year Paramedic student and, after completing four clinical placements and spending 18 weeks on road, I am going to share with you how I personally prepared for the most exciting, yet nerve-wracking, time of my life.

I can vividly remember how I felt the night before my first shift on road for each placement.  I was so nervous and excited. I had butterflies in my stomach and my imagination ran wild with anticipation. My bag would be packed the week before, my uniforms freshly ironed (including my spares), boots polished and lunch packed. I triple-checked everything I had to prepare so that I didn’t forget anything. Despite setting my alarm, I would wake up at least three times, hours before it was due to go off, just in case I had slept through it! To avoid anxiously pacing back and forth, I found that keeping busy in the days leading up to placement was a good way to distract myself from the nerves I was feeling. As a student who has ‘been there, done that’, if there were any tips I could give someone who is about to begin their first placement, they would be:

  1. Don’t leave your preparations to the night before your placement – you don’t want to add any more stress than you already may be feeling.
  2. Pack healthy food, and a lot of it! You won’t know when you are going to get a break or if you are going to get a break, so it is important to pack enough food to last you at least 12 hours.
  3. Do not go into your placement thinking that you know everything, or that you have to know everything, before you get there. There is so much to know about medicine, and even the most experienced clinicians are always learning, so make sure to cut yourself some slack.

Now, let’s talk about life on road in an ambulance. From the moment you set foot on a truck – it’s go time. More often than not, you will leave the station for the first job of the day and not get back to the station until after your last. You will see and experience situations that others can only dream of, both incredible and challenging, and sometimes you only have minutes to prepare for these situations. When faced with a challenging situation, it is important to take just a few seconds to breathe, process what is happening around you, and know that you have the full support of your mentors at all times.

One of the biggest pearls of wisdom that was given to me was the saying, ‘slow is smooth, and smooth is fast’.

This could not be more applicable to Paramedicine. Not every job you will go to is a high-pressure situation, but when you are faced with a stressful environment, it is important to remember to keep as calm as possible in order to work efficiently. You will find that all your hard work and training fast becomes second nature in an emergency situation. The best advice I can give to you while you are on road is to:

  1. Put yourself out there – we are so privileged as students to have the experience to work alongside Paramedics, so make your time in the field count. It’s your placement, and what you will get out of it will depend on how much you put into the experience.
  2. Be self-aware, always. It is important to manage your fatigue and keep good sleep hygiene while working shift work. What is even more important is looking after your own mental health – please, PLEASE ensure you have a support network around you and that you talk about your experiences with them rather than bottling things up.
  3. Have fun! This is what we students work hard towards every year. It is a chance for us to put what we have learned into action, so enjoy every minute of it!

At the end of the day, your first placement will cement in your mind whether this is the career for you. It will be rewarding, it will be challenging, but most of all, it might just be the best experience you will have throughout your study journey.

Throughout study, we can experience our fair go of ups and downs, but it’s important to bounce back with resilience. If you’re in need of some support during your study journey, it’s available to you. Look no further then right here.


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