Contemplating life.

An interesting report, part 1

There are so many great reports out there, shared on the world wide web. Inspired by Alltag im Rettungsdienst, and in order to share some of the interesting ones, I have decided to post them as I come across them.

This first one comes from Queensland, Australia. The Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS) have established a Trauma Response Team, a rapid response unit consisting of a Intensive Care Paramedic and a doctor (who happens to be the medical director for the QAS).



A night in Edinburgh, part I

May 2011…

A night in Edinburgh

Kal picked me up en route to the depot, in the car with us TrickyDicky, another cheery chum of a paramedic. We chat on the way to the station about this’n’that, and I am given a quick rundown of life  “on the streets” in Edinburgh, and the set up of the service in the city.

Edinburgh has one central ambulance depot; all ambulances and rapid response units (RRU – pronounced ‘roo’ (do they hop? -Ed)) are dispatched from here to various standby points around the area as needed. There are different types of standby points: ‘serviced’ stand bys include toilet and kitchen facilities, usually found as annexes to fire stations, and ‘unserviced’ stand by points (a.k.a. street corner). Dispatch doesn’t like sending crews to the latter, as they can only be allocated to such a place for an hour at a time, then they must be moved – just too much work. Two 20 minute uninterruptible meal breaks are given to each crew per 12 hour shift. I am impressed by this set up!

We pull up to the station. All the paramedics on duty are welcoming and some ask why I am wearing an odd uniform – some maybe not quite as curious as in London, but that may have just been chance. Having said that, I was only wearing half a uniform (plain shirt with uniform  trousers). Occasionally I had to interject in conversation with a polite “excuse me, could you repeat that please (I didn’t understand a #$%&ing word)”. I love the Scottish accent, but, similar to women, I don’t always fully understand everything that is said.

Kal sorts out his stuff, and we head to our assigned RRU. He checks his drugs, shows me through the bags and I poke my nose around the car. Interestingly, all the vehicles in Edinburgh have manual transmissions. Different (I’m used to autos everywhere in Australia), but everybody seems to like it that way. I would find it awkward to have to balance emergency driving, shifting and speaking on the radio simultaneously, plus I don’t see the upsides of a manual transmission (apart from cost savings); more work and less smooth. From a stretcher point of view, the vans either have ramps, the newer ones tail lifts like in London – great for manual handling and having a long lasting career (and back)!

The last few pockets of equipment are checked, and right on time we receive our first job, a gentleman in respiratory distress. We race off, and I am impressed by the siren switch: double honk of the horn activates the siren, a single honk changes from wail to yelp, and another double honk turns it off again. Simple yet brilliant (a.k.a. what I want in my dream ambulance).

We arrive on scene, and while grabbing the gear, Kal turns to me and stats “I shall now adapt to the environment”. Silently hoping that he can, by magic, change his bright green uniform to a dull grey house facade colour in true chameleon-style, I realise what he means five seconds later when he comes out with a Class-A Scottish accent. As if he had lived in Edinburgh since the day Arthurs Seat [LINK] was plopped down by the god of rocks.

You see, Kal isn’t from the ‘burgh, and therefore doesn’t normally speak with a Scottish accent. To blend in, and be accepted with the Scottish crowd, he fakes it. The locals feel more at ease with a familiar accent. Reassurance – even if it means speaking funny – is key – it’s all part of patient care!

On scene, vitals signs are checked and treatment is commenced. I can’t help myself but to fall back in to ‘driver mode’, and ask for patient details and medications (sans faux accent). Kal seems to be happy to have an additional pair of hands with him tonight. I’m more than happy to help.

The ambulance arrives, and I am thrown a quizzical look by the paramedics. After an explanation, they nod to acknowledge the information offered, but an air of bewilderment stays. It’s not everyday that an Australian on holiday turns up observing!

We retreat to the car, and Kal types up a few notes, and we are clear for the next job. Every vehicle has a tablet for electronic patient care documentation. For the RRU, short ones are written up, then added to the transporting crews documentation.

I ask about the personal side of the service, how everyone gets along. He states its like a big family; not only does everybody know each other in the Edinburgh region area (approximately 140 staff), Kal says he’s been out with them all, had a beer and met the family.

Another beep, and we are sent off somewhere, but cancelled nearly immediately – memories of the recent shift in London are awakened (where half the calls sent to us were stood down). But more work is just around the corner. We are sent to a female with chest pains, top floor of a large apartment block. The norm in most of Europe, in low density suburban Perth it is a bit of a novelty when we go in to a block with more than ten parties. It turns out that our patient is probably suffering from anxiety attacks again, her husband is able to translate most of the questions, but not everything adds up. We have a few minutes to spare until the cheery crew pulls up with a chair to take the patient to hospital (and an interpreter).

Don’t miss part II, full of blood, huffs and creeps!

Edinburgh: ParamedicPictures

May 2011:


With the notorious “Scottish Cuisine” in abundance, you won’t be out of a job anytime soon in Edinburgh.



At first I thought it was a police car. But then I realised the difference!



Guess who’s mug that is?



Different (in my experience) way of checking a patients temperature



All ready for a busy shift!



Honda honed and ready to go.



Edinburgh ambulance station



The man himself, with that awesome green uniform (seriously, I’d work there just to be able to wear bright green all day long!).

Note that he is actually not a man, or a paramedic, but an ambulance, although he does look quite different to the thing in front of him on four wheels.



Here be the front.



Here be the back.



Here be the insides!


Saved by a paramedic

May 2011…

So, there I was, in the middle of Edinburgh. Out of London for a few days, like a holiday within a holiday. Quaint and cold Edinburgh.

I am meeting up with Kal from Trauma Queen for a coffee and a chat. There is no room inside the cafe, so outside it is then. At least it’s not raining, just a little chilly, grey and glum.

Until a cheery chum comes walking up the street. His gaze meets mine, the blind date-esque look of “I don’t know who I’m looking for but I you’ll do the trick”.





Blind date no more, as we are now blessed with direct vision of each other. Via twitter and SMS we’d arranged to meet – the wonders of modern technology.

Kal’s real name is not Kal. It is actually Sal. Mal. Or Val? Pal? I forget. Everybody in the service knows about his blog, he is quite open about his writing (he is quite an open person full stop). The only reason for the pseudonym he states is for the patients – he does not want to arrive at a job and be recognised as the author by a member of the public (in Edinburgh your first name is embroidered on to your uniform).

A really nice chap, we chatted about this’n’that, our backgrounds, growing up in different places, and working in different services. Warm liquid and sweet nibbles later, a shift was sorted…time to experience the dark side of Edinburgh – a night in the Rapid Response Vehicle!

– ~ –

We were walking up Edinburgh’s Royal Mile . Kal suddenly pulls me aside with a strong tug on the arm.

I throw a quizzical look. I nearly stepped on this:


The Heart of Midlothian. Don’t step on it. Listen to a local.

Why? Is it sacred? Will the gods strike you dead with a lightning bolt? Will you set off the secret alarm for Batman? Or summon the transformers?

No. People spit on it. A tradition of ancient, kept up until now.

Only in Scotland.

Literary Edinburgh

Edinburgh immediately made a good impression on me. There was something in the air (aside from the rain), a certain je ne sais quoi, that inspired my creative cells. Soaking all of it up, it was only a little later when I booked in for the Edinburgh Literary Pub Tour (a must if you are in Edinburgh!) that I realised the rich artistic history the city has, and that many have been inspired before me.

Here some snippets in stone:


“There are no stars so lovely as Edinburgh street lamps”


Robert Louis Stevenson




“It’s a grand thing

to get leave to live”


Nan Shepherd

(I couldn’t agree more!)



“Knowledge is high in the head…

but the salmon of wisdom swims deep”


Neil Gunn



“Go back far enough

and all humankind are cousins”


Naomi Mitchison



“And yet

and yet, this New Road

will some day

be the Old Road too”


Neil Munro



“You intend to bide here?

To be sure,

can you think of anywhere better?


Nigel Tranter



“We can only pay our debt to the past

by putting the future in debt to us


John Buchan



All this made me want to write. May as well write in style! Analogue blogging, accompanied by a big scottish breakfast. From left to right: A4 pad, pen, OJ, egg, sausage, haggis, bacon, tomato, baked beans, black pudding, toast, butter.



So, after a few days being forcefully submersed in the beautiful bustling bucket they call London, I was to board a train heading north that would elegantly transport me to Edinburgh, capital of Scotland.

And so I did. And was bloody happy that I had reserved myself a seat – it was overfilled by far, and nitwit-features avec family had decided to take over the carriage I was to ride in.  This was complemented with slurping dripping ice cream, screaming babies, shouting across the carriage, endlessly ringing mobile phones and the most horrid looking earrings I have seen since the eighties. Luckily they left halfway through the journey, or I might have been charged with Murder on the [Orient Express] Flying Scotsman. From then on, the ride was great, with some fabulous coastal views once the train passed Berwick-upon-Tweed:



Edinburgh has a great vibe to it. It is full of life and literature; couple this with some great architecture from the middle ages you get quite an experience. Some Excerpts:


Edinburgh prepare for night time



Arthur’s Seat



The Royal Mile



A bridge and an old building




The Castle



A robot strangling a child.



Rain. Of course!

Hello London!!!

35 000 kilometres, 773 photos, 80 days, 14 flights, six countries, four paramedic shifts, one conference and many old and new friends later, I am touching down in London.


If all goes to plan, the plane should land the minute this post is automagically posted. It’s been a great trip, but I am itching to get back in to a less nomadic lifestyle. Settle down for a bit. Sleep in one bed longer than three days. Live out of a wardrobe, not a suitcase. Infuse a bit of continuity back in to my life.

And get a job. It’s high time to get back in to the exciting world of paramedicine, experience the UK system, and finally have an excuse to wear a rain jacket. (P.S.: if anyone has any tips in regards to paramedic work in London or the UK in general, please let me know!)

Looking forward to a whole new experience. In the meantime, keep an eye out for my travel diaries that will be published here (last years UK/US trip, my stints in a rural setting, as well as this journey just gone by).

See you in London!


Creative Commons Licence [Some Rights Reserved]   © Copyright Christine Matthews and
licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

a little late…

Many apologies for the long wait. It has been over a year that I travelled the UK, US and Canada comparing some international Paramedic Services. I did publish my tales from London, but never got round to refining and blogging the stories from the rest of the trip. They will appear here in chronological order over the next few days and weeks.

In the mean time, I will be writing up current stories of my current trip, my move from Australia to the UK, via South Africa, Germany, Israel and Cyprus.

I hope you enjoy, and, as always, all feedback is welcome!


Guestpost: Paramedic Registration

Today a guest post about Australian paramedic registration by a boy who got sidetracked in to mechanical engineering, who then got sidetracked in to disaster relief, and further sidetracked in to (guest) blogging: 

– ~ –

I was reading the ACEM submission on the consultation on paramedic registration when I came across this wonderful quote:

“Proposals to introduce extended-care models for paramedics may result in some paramedics undertaking clinical work in different and novel settings (e.g. at a patient’s home).”

Heh. Novel… Hahahaha! *Wipes tear from eyes*

It still cracks me up.

Seriously, because specialist emergency surgeons in Australia don’t treat people outside a hospital certified as a trauma centre (anymore) does NOT make a patients’ home a new setting for delivering emergency medical care, or any medical care for that matter. Medical care has been provided in homes since Adam got out of bed and stubbed his toe.

There are many more people affected by the registration of paramedics than only paramedics and the staff of the hospitals we (mostly) transport people to. Indeed, every person in Australia will be affected when they, or someone they love, is transported by paramedics. There will be many opportunities in the coming months and years for all of us to have a say in how paramedic registration can provide the most benefit to the community we serve.

Have your say.

– ~ –

Zeke is a first year paramedic student at Victoria University, and thinking about starting his own blog. Encourage him to write more – leave a comment below, find him on twitter (@xzcion) or email me and I’ll pass it on.