Jess Bevan

• Cardiff, Wales
Jess - Behind the Uniform

If only people treated alcohol better, my job would be many, many times easier

Life-threatening emergencies? Dealing with those wasn’t originally part of my plan; I signed up with the ambulance service as a 999 call-taker because I needed a job, and the money.

Teaching PE was going to be my thing and training was going well, then I did work experience in a school and realised that I didn’t actually like teaching kids. 

So, I ended up working as a promo girl for a club in the city centre, then bar manager at Oceana serving drinks to the masses. One thing is for sure, it put me off Sambucca for life… 

Unfortunately, alcohol plays a big part in my working life. If only people treated alcohol better, my job would be many, many times easier. Drinking causes so many different issues – with health, anxiety and general mood. It’s the reason so many fights happen, and it leads you to make decisions you wouldn’t normally make. 

Working in the 999 control centre was a great stepping-stone to becoming a Paramedic.  To be honest, taking the calls is more stressful than being out on the ambulance.  On the phone all you’ve got is your voice, it’s your only tool, and you have to use it to tell someone how to administer CPR or deliver a baby.  It’s the ultimate test of your ability to communicate.

The ambulance used to be considered a ‘taxi to hospital’ but now we’re qualified to do so much more”

The ambulance used to be considered a ‘taxi to hospital’ but now we’re qualified to do so much more and we’re driving around in £120k worth of vehicle with plenty of gadgets to help us.  The equipment we have is amazing, if the patient has had a heart attack, we can tell where the clot is by looking at an ECG, informing the hospital while we’re on the way.

Arriving at an incident there’s a lot of information to take on in a short space of time, we’re trained to be very systematic as we go through our assessments. In the heat of the moment, bystanders are generally poor ‘historians’.  People get anxious and upset when faced with traumatic situations, so things can get taken out of context or exaggerated when they call 999. I’ve experienced responding to someone who has been ‘unconscious for 20 minutes’, in the medical world this would typically represent someone who is severely unwell! However this person was just drunk. It can be frustrating responding to incidents like this, when there are people waiting for an ambulance with genuine medical emergencies.

It upsets me when people get their cameras out when we’re treating people by the side of the road, it’s unhelpful and completely disrespectful.  I’ve even had people asking me to move the ambulance as it’s ‘blocking them in’ while responding to an emergency.  I don’t waste many words telling them to go away and be patient.

We deal with difficult situations and at the end of the shift you have to discuss it, or it will affect your mental health.  I offload to colleagues and my partner, Laura, who is a police officer, gets an earful sometimes too.  

I actually met Laura on a job, I was called to an incident in a house in Splott – not typically a time or place where you’d think romance would blossom. The patient had a minor head wound and started kicking off when I said he needed to go to hospital to get checked out, he was in my face getting really aggressive and Laura stepped in to protect me.  She’s been protective ever since!

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