A Day in the Life

Twenty-one students have been awarded degrees in UL’s inaugural Paramedic Studies programme. UL Links caught up with two of the graduates, Kevin Reddington and Mark Callanan, to find out what a paramedic’s typical day, if there is such a thing, is like.

Mark Callanan
National Ambulance Service Paramedic

I work 12-hour shifts at a time, which could be from 8am to 8pm for a day shift or 8pm to 8am for the night shift. I work with another crew member, which can be either another paramedic or an advanced paramedic. We start every shift by doing a number of checks, for example, the monitoring and resuscitation equipment, trauma and medical management devices. We ensure all of this vital equipment is in place, easily accessible and are in good working order. By the very nature of this job, you cannot leave pre-shift checks to chance; someone’s life may depend on it.

This job is full of learning, development and, sometimes, challenges. It is a job where we, as practitioners, don’t know where we will be sent to next, as it is dependent on the 112/999 call received by our colleagues in the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC). The calls we attend range from locations such as open fields with an injured farmer, to the side of a busy motorway in the case of road traffic collisions, or in the warmth of someone’s front room for a person who has an emergency at home. We can get calls to packed churches on a busy Sunday morning, or unlit back alleys of our cities and towns. We look after people from all walks of life, all ages and backgrounds who need our services at a time of emergency for them.

Every shift, every call and conversation provides us with an opportunity to learn something new or develop a new approach to a presenting problem. Advances in research and education are constantly pushing the paramedic profession to new heights. New medications and techniques allow us to help patients in better ways, providing more comfort to the sick and injured. Understanding the interactions between all of the body’s systems enables us to provide help to people who require our service.

Developing and maintaining good communication skills are vital. Establishing a level of trust with the patient allows us to gain vital information, thus guiding our clinical decision-making.

I love my job as a paramedic, as it gives me the opportunity to help people and really make a difference.  

Kevin Reddington
Fire-fighter/Advanced Paramedic

Working as an advanced paramedic/fire-fighter with Dublin Fire Brigade could be described as one of the best jobs in the world because of the variety of the workload, the challenges of the working environments and the camaraderie. This variety stems from not only the nature of the emergency calls we respond to but also, on any given day, I could be assigned to duties on the fire engine, the ambulance or the rapid response advanced paramedic car.

Taking one particular day’s events, it could go like this: At the start of the shift, we check our equipment, ensuring it is all accounted for, tested and re-stocked if necessary. This is commonly interrupted by an emergency call, the first of which is to a man in cardiac arrest. On arrival at the scene in the response car, we find an ambulance and a fire appliance already in attendance and performing CPR on the man. Despite all our efforts, a decision to cease resuscitation was made. Our role then transitions from providing advanced life support to caring for and informing this man’s family of his death and the formalities that are required.

The next call-out is to a collision between a Luas tram and a bus. On arrival at the scene, multiple Dublin Fire Brigade resources are present and continuing to arrive, as well as the gardaí and National Ambulance Service. Our role is to assess, prioritise and provide treatment/advanced life support to casualties and liaising with the incident commander regarding transport and extrication decisions. In all, we assessed five casualties who were then transported to a nearby emergency department.

After the frantic morning, calm is somewhat restored, so we use this lull in activity to continue our equipment checks. After we have dealt with two people that had overdosed on illicit drugs, the final call of the day is to a three-year old child, who has suffered a leg fracture. On arrival at the home, it is obvious that the child has broken his femur and requires intravenous fluid resuscitation and pain relief, which we provide, before transporting him to the emergency department.

Then it is time to return to the station to re-stock and prepare for the next watch to take over responsibility for the capital’s citizens.