Saturday 25th September 2021 Vol 001 Edition 00018
by photojournalist Jim Campbell
Paramedic Rory Murphy
When we see an ambulance whizzing by with the blue lights flashing, sirens blaring, we first wonder what emergency are they on route to? How serious is it? I hope everyone is OK? I hope it’s not someone I know. So many questions flash through our minds.
For more of us, there are the questions such as what training do these ambulance personnel undergo? How long does the training take? How difficult a career is it to get into? How can I become a paramedic? And so on.
Paramedics undergo a more extended training period than EMTs
What is a Paramedic? Paramedics respond to emergency calls, perform specific medical procedures, and transport patients to a hospital following protocols and guidelines established by physician medical directors.
The most significant difference between EMTs (Emergency Medical Technician) and paramedics is in terms of their training and their scope of practice.
In simple terms, paramedics undergo a more extended training period than EMTs and are therefore qualified to do a lot more.
Making lifesaving decisions quickly
When you’re a qualified paramedic, no day is ever the same. You’ll work in a range of emergency and non-emergency situations, using your judgment and skills to assess a patient’s condition and make lifesaving decisions quickly.
My profile for the series ‘A Day in the Life of’ is paramedic Rory Murphy.
Rory is a paramedic with the Ambulance Service in Wexford town in the southeast of Ireland. The National Ambulance Service is the statutory pre-hospital emergency and intermediate care provider for the State.
The National Ambulance Service responds to over 300,000 ambulance calls each year, employs over 1,600 staff across 100 locations and has a fleet of approximately 500 vehicles.
Care begins immediately at the time that the emergency call is received
In conjunction with its partners the National Ambulance Service transports approximately 40,000 patients via an Intermediate Care Service, co-ordinates and dispatches more than 800 aero medical/air ambulance calls, completes 600 paediatric and neonatal transfers.
Their Mission is to serve the needs of patients and the public as part of an integrated health system, through the provision of high quality, safe and patient-centred services.
This care begins immediately at the time that the emergency call is received, continues through to the safe treatment, transportation and handover of the patient to the clinical team at the receiving hospital or emergency department.
Rory, a native of Castlebridge in County Wexford; he was educated in St Ibar’s National School in Castlebridge and St Peter’s College in Wexford.
After completing his Leaving Certificate in St Peter’s College, Rory studied mechanical engineering at the Dublin Institute of Technology in Bolton Street in Dublin.
Rory always had a passion for lifesaving; he was a lifeguard on the beaches in Wexford for many years
As a young man in school, Rory’s dream was to work in Formula One as a mechanical engineer.
On completing his third level education in Bolton Street, he went on to work as in mechanical engineering, eventually becoming self-employed during the ‘Celtic Tiger’ years.
The ‘Celtic Tiger’ is a term referring to the economy of the Republic of Ireland from the mid-1990s to the late-2000s, a period of rapid real economic growth fuelled by foreign direct investment.
Rory always had a passion for lifesaving; he was a lifeguard on the beaches in Wexford for many years. After a few years decided that he wanted to become a paramedic.
The Paramedic recruitment process has several stages
In 2017, the Castlebridge man learned from some friends that the Ambulance Service was recruiting. Without hesitation, he applied for one of the positions.
The Paramedic recruitment process has several stages. Having completed Stage 1 (the initial application, by the deadline), successful candidates will be invited to undertake a Verbal Evaluation and an Analytical Reasoning Test (in person in Dublin).
Those who are successful at the aptitude test stage and following a sift in line with course entry requirements and necessary licencing documentation (e.g., C1 driving licence documentation, etc.) will be invited to a structured interview.
As we would imagine, the training would be essential, especially when it comes to saving lives. The Ambulance Service has its own college, one in Tallagh, another in Ballinsloe, and the third in Tullamore.
“Every Paramedic student will undergo a three-year training process to obtain the degree standard for the paramedic qualification“
These courses are of an exceptionally high standard and recognised throughout the world. The Ambulance Service operates these colleges.
“Every Paramedic student will undergo a three-year training process to obtain the degree standard for the paramedic qualification. The training is a combination of college for a period of time, then being out on the road for a period of time, then back in college, and so on.”
Then the student will complete their training working for a year with the paramedics getting hands-on experience
Paramedics work twelve-hour shifts, three shifts one week, and four the following. The system is rotated each fortnight. The ambulance crews start at different times.
“We have different shift patterns here; we have a seven o’clock start, eight o’clock start, and a nine o’clock start. There is also a twelve o’clock shift.”
Preparation in any line of work is critical. There is a considerable amount of work involved for the paramedics in setting up before their shift. “We are generally in about twenty minutes of half an hour before our shift to get set up.
“Once we are logged on, we are ready to go“
There is quite a bit involved in getting set up in the morning.” The preparation involves setting up the ambulance, checking that the equipment is in working order, and sorting out the medication needed for the day.
Now it is time for the Paramedics to log on. “We log on to the control centres in Tallagh, to our own radios, and on the ambulance itself. Once we are logged on, we are ready to go. All our calls come from the control centre in Tallagh in Dublin.”
Depending on the day, Paramedics get minimal downtime. “Currently, at the moment, we are extremely busy. The call rate is gone up as we have gone through COVID 19; it is even higher at the moment.”
“When we arrive at the hospital with a patient, another call is waiting as soon as the ambulance is cleaned and ready to go”
“When we start our seven o’clock shift, we expect to be gone out the door as soon as we log on at seven. When we arrive at the hospital with a patient, another call is waiting as soon as the ambulance is cleaned and ready to go.” says the Castlebridge man
Rory explains what they do when they get the occasional break- “We would be reviewing current regulations, looking for the changes in policies, if any.”
“Always work to be doing, whether it’s out on the road on a call or back at the station, maintaining the station, vehicles to be looked after.”
A team of two paramedics operates each ambulance
A team of two paramedics operates each ambulance. In Wexford Ambulance Station, there are three ambulances on duty during the day.
These are backed up with ambulances stationed in three other towns: Enniscorthy, Gorey, and New Ross.
Paramedics take charge at the scene of an emergency and, if necessary, perform life-saving procedures while transporting patients to the hospital.
“Prepare ourselves for what we may encounter“
Rory explains what happens following that emergency call, “It starts with the control centre in Dublin. They send a call to us, and as Paramedics, we have the radio on us all the time. We board the ambulance, and we receive the details through our computer.”
“We make our way to the call wherever it may be in Wexford, Kilkenny, Waterford, Arklow, or wherever. Prepare ourselves for what we may encounter. If we need more details if necessary, we will ask for them. Once we arrive, we treat the patient as needs to be.”
“Been able to make a difference; that’s the reward we get from it.”
“We transport the patient to the hospital provide whatever treatment is necessary between the scene/location and the hospital.”
What Rory likes about his work is “that you get to help people on a daily basis—been there for that person when they need you. Been able to make a difference; that’s the reward we get from it.”
Advice from Rory to anyone wishing to pursue a career with the Ambulance Service- “Get your school qualifications first.”
“Then call into the ambulance station, have a chat with one of the Paramedics there. This career is not for everybody.”
“You will always have a job within this type of industry”
“It is a great job, a rewarding career. You will always have a job within this type of industry. Once you have it, your qualification will allow you to travel the world if that’s what you are interested in doing.”
“Obviously, there are negatives in the job, but the positives outweigh the negatives. It allows you to give something back.”
“Like anything in life, there is help there if you need it.”
To join the National Ambulance Service Ireland. Click on the link below
My sincere thanks to Paramedic Rory Murphy, Ambulance Officer Ger Carthy for their contribution to this blog, very much appreciated. JC
All images and original text © All Rights Reserved Jim Campbell 2021
About the author
Jim Campbell is an Irish photographer, freelancer and photojournalist. Campbell has being contemporary photographer for more than two decades.
A native of Wexford town in the south-east of Ireland, Campbell studied photography in the Dublin Institute of Technology before going to work with a newspaper.
Since 1998 he has been working with local and national papers in Ireland and the UK. His work has appeared in publications globally including newspapers, magazines and online publications.
In 2013 Campbell made his first of what would become many trips to the conflict areas of the world. To observe more on Jim’s work vist the link to his website below.