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Ambulances & Programming



It’s now almost six months since I wrote something here. Probably too long, but hey — this was never for much other than writing things down when I felt like it. Since then we’ve had another one or two Covid waves, the festive period and the madness that brings, and a promotion and a whole lot more responsibility.

COVID Schmovid

Is COVID a thing any more? It seems the government would have us believe not. If we’re going by the calls it’s hard to tell any more — they used to come through saying “they’ve just tested positive for COVID”, but now nobody’s even bothering with tests, let alone isolation. Any call for flu-like symptoms could be COVID, or it could be any number of other things — there’s just no way to tell.

According to the numbers half a million people a week are still testing positive, but even that’s not particularly reliable any more. According to the same numbers, the number of tests conducted is only around half of what it was when cases were last this high, so who knows — the real number of cases could be 10 times higher.

I find it difficult to have an opinion on COVID, working in healthcare. Even the phrase “an opinion on COVID” strikes me as slightly odd — it’s a disease, and diseases are facts, not things you have opinions on. Even so, it’s a pretty common topic of conversation. What do we do with it? Do we just have to live with it? How do we do that, realistically, accounting for the impact on everyone in society? Not just the young healthy people, but the disabled, the chronically ill, the elderly, the ones who live ten to a room: all those people who COVID has a disproportionate impact on anyway? How is it fair to expect “just live with it” to be a workable solution for them?

Or do we continue with restrictions on life? Masking, distancing, isolation, lockdowns are just the basics — if you’re doing that you also have to consider working from home, furlough, and all the additional social and financial support programs that have to be in place for any of that to work properly. That’s before you get to the question of enforcement: not just how you do it, but how you justify it, staff it, finance it, ensure it’s done fairly, etc etc. Don’t get me wrong, none of that is insurmountable, but it needs change: not just a change in people’s own attitudes, but a change in government attitude, policy, and frankly the whole political landscape. A political environment where the party that imposes restrictions are seen as guaranteed to be voted out — whether that’s true or not — is not the kind of environment that fosters the fundamental changes required to really beat COVID.

Wrapping paper, writing paper

Christmas and New Year always bring chaos to the ambulance service. Finding Grandma dead in her bed on Christmas morning is certainly one way to spend your Christmas, and not a particularly great way at that. On the other hand, maybe you’re spending Christmas alone and it gets to you. People call us for a whole bunch of reasons, and we see the whole works on Christmas. New Year is pretty similar, except more drunk people. A lot more drunk people. I do wish folks would learn how to look after a drunk person properly sometimes (hint: it usually doesn’t involve calling 999).

On top of that, a few days later we swapped that wrapping paper for writing paper. Our computer systems all went down at once and left us taking calls on paper. This happens every now and then, as with any computer system, and it’s not particularly eventful, really: it’s a well-rehearsed procedure that we fall into easily enough. This was only notable at all because for me, it was my first time taking live calls on paper. Despite that, I’m still one of the more experienced call handlers in the room, so it seemed to fall to me to be the first line of support for newer call handlers with questions about what to do.

Oh well. We takes it on the chin and we chalks it up to experience.

On the Re-band

After a year working as a call handler, we’re automatically promoted to be a call coordinator. That means a bit of a pay bump, which is no bad thing, and it means expanded abilities and responsibilities. Effectively, it means I can Do More Stuff — which given that I like knowing things and being useful, is perfect for me. I’m trained up and working on our dispatch support positions and critical call desk, I’ve built on my ability as a trainer and can now do final sign off assessments for new call handlers: the only thing left for me to do is train on our supervisor desk, which should come in the next few months.

Expanded horizons obviously come with more responsibility. For me, that’s been around training: I’ve realised that I have a bit of an affinity for training, both because of how I learned the job to start with and because of how I teach it. I have a very methodical and logical way of going about it, which seems to work for a lot of trainees. My management hasn’t been slow on noticing that, so I’ve had a whole string of trainees in the last few months, some more challenging than others, which has led to me being entrusted with final sign-offs once trainees have completed their consolidation period.

I’m not objecting, though. Wider horizons are never a bad thing. To the next adventure.

development training
Written on February 4, 2022