The first 15 of a new era for EEAST

Wednesday, 26 February, 2014

The transformation of the ambulance service’s frontline continued as a new training course is well underway to turn emergency care assistants (ECAs) into emergency medical technicians (EMTs).

Two hundred ECAs applied for the six-week courses so they can take the next clinical career step at the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust (EEAST). In total, 61 ECAs will be undergoing the rigorous training, and the first 15 took to the classroom on Monday (January 27) at the Trust training base in Melbourn, Cambs.

A blog published by EEAST has documented their progress as the ECAs reach the halfway point of their course. Four of them took part in a Q & A session to talk about what they’re learning and their future prospects.

Lee Clark, who joined EEAST 21 months ago and is based at Luton ambulance station said: “The training has really opened our eyes and we’re starting to join the dots from what we’ve learned before. The tutors have worked so hard to make the course work for us and teach us everything we need to know.”

The candidates faced a rigorous and competitive application process and Course Director Christina Maylor said: “These guys have all worked really hard to get where they are and this course is a great opportunity to build on their skills and look at areas in more depth.

“We’re now developing them into strong, independent clinicians and I want to wish them the best of luck with the course.”

Among other areas, the training will look at specific conditions and administering drugs, to enable the trainees to work independently.

The Trust’s Chief Executive Dr Anthony Marsh said: “This is part of our drive to develop the skills of our staff so that we can deliver even better care to patients.

“We pride ourselves on the work that our staff do and want to give them as much support as possible.” Q and A with four of EEAST's ECAs

Abbey Goodchild is based in Ipswich and has been with EEAST for around six years. She joined as an ambulance care assistant with the non-urgent patient transport service.

Suzie Brooks is based in Bury St Edmunds and has been with EEAST for six years. She started with the ambulance service as a dispatcher but realised that out on the road is where she wanted to be.

Lee Clark is based in Luton and joined EEAST 19 months ago.

John Hughes is based in St Albans and joined EEAST 21 months ago with no previous clinical background, having had a long career as an electrician since leaving school.

So how’s the course going?

JH: There’s so much more depth – before we were told this is what you do if this happens but now we’re actually understanding more about why we do it and how the body works. We were taught the skills to assist the clinician when coming across certain injuries and illnesses, now we’re being taught to be the clinician and learn how to have a better understanding of injury and illness and how to independently treat

LC: The training’s really opened our eyes and we’re starting to join the dots from what we’ve learned before.

JH: But with the help of the tutors, we’re being taught and learning so much.

LC: The tutors have worked so hard to make the course work for us and teach us everything we need to know.

On the specifics…

SB: The course is about 50/50 between practical and theory which is great really. The tutors want you to be good clinicians and it shows.

AG: I like the balance of the practical and theory elements of the course, it really suits me, and I think the level of the course is about right too; we’ve all got road experience and we’re now gaining the background knowledge to add to it.

JH: It’s great that we can just do more for patients like administer drugs and control their airway, and that’s really satisfying.

What happens after this?

AG: Well, thankfully we have our portfolios to complete before we qualify as EMT’s, so we’ve got some time to practice under supervision before being let loose on our own. I’m pleased to think there’s additional time for us to get used to working as an EMT, as it feels like a big step at times!

SB: We’ll have more autonomy to be able to treat patients and make decisions. Sometimes it can be frustrating as an ECA when you feel like you’ve gained enough experience and you want to do more so this is a fantastic opportunity.

On becoming a paramedic…

AG: I’m really happy to be making clinical progress at the moment, and whilst I would like to become a paramedic one day, I want to be a competent technician first, so one step at a time.

SB: I always wanted to be in operations and I joined in the hope that I could become a paramedic. It’s a big step from ECA to EMT but we’ll see what opportunities the future holds.

JH: Hopefully but I want to progress steadily and really get the feel of being an EMT first.

LC: I wouldn’t have been able to access the paramedic university pathway because I have a young family to consider. I’d like to progress to paramedic but I’ll have to see what future opportunities arise and consider it then. This has been a fantastic opportunity to progress to EMT and gain the experience and clinical confidence first.

What would you say to other ECAs?

JH: I hope this encourages others to be more proactive and learn more about the clinical side. Ask senior colleagues questions about their roles and take more of an interest. You can get to the next level because opportunities will come along.

LC: I know as an EMT I can empathise with ECAs because I know what it’s like to be in that position. I think there’s room for more understanding among colleagues towards ECAs and now there is this pathway, ECAs can progress and develop, hopefully bring a whole culture shift. A full link to the blog can be found here:

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