Northamptonshire ambulance technician says her job is a ‘privilege’ as service recruits frontline staff

Liz Canham, EMAS Emergency Medical Technician
Liz Canham, EMAS Emergency Medical Technician
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Forget the dramatic brief appearances in Holby City, Casualty and gritty crime dramas, says East Midlands Ambulance Service technician Liz Canham, it’s the chance to make a real difference to people’s lives that makes her job a privilege.

The mother-of-three, of Kettering, has been an emergency medical technician (EMT) with the service since 2002 and, 13 years later, has never once looked back.

Now, as EMAS is looking to enhance its service by recruiting more EMTs, she shares her experiences and everything she has gained as a part of the service.

“What’s so great about the job is that you cannot possibly get bored,” she said, “because you never know what’s coming next.

“It’s a very busy life and when you clock on your shift, it’s usually a matter of seconds before you are called out on your first job.”

Mrs Canham joined EMAS part-time when her children started to grow up and covers two 12-hour night shifts a week.

EMAS, Mereway

EMAS, Mereway

She underwent intensive training that means she is qualified to give first aid, administer drugs, deal with emergency medical situations and decide whether a patient needs to be taken to A&E or can treated on the spot.

She said: “An EMT will always be in a crew of at least two, either with another EMT or with a paramedic, and all members of staff are so supportive of each other – it’s like having a work family.

“We are each other’s counsellors if somebody has to attend to something traumatic and, even though there isn’t much downtime, there’s always the opportunity for a bit of a laugh.

“I joined because I wanted to do something really worthwhile, and I absolutely love it.

I joined because I wanted to do something really worthwhile, and I absolutely love it.

Liz Canham

“I couldn’t work in an office environment after this.

“It is a true privilege of a job: we go into people’s homes when they are at their most desperate and vulnerable to support both patients and their families.

“There are some situations when you are there at the end of someone’s life, which can be so sad in cases where, for example, a couple have been married 50 or 60 years and then one dies quietly in their sleep.

“But then you also attend births, where you are at the very beginning of someone’s life.

EMAS paramedics, ECAs and EMTs take vehicles in crews

EMAS paramedics, ECAs and EMTs take vehicles in crews

“Even in cases when you might just be holding a patient’s or a loved one’s hand to help them feel safe in a difficult situation, all you need is a simple thank you to show how much of a difference you are making to people’s lives every day.”

Whether working as an EMT, emergency care assistant (ECA) or a fully qualified paramedic, EMAS frontline staff attend a vast range of calls throughout the county every day, even if patients don’t end up requiring hospital treatment.

“It’s not all about blood and guts, like they show on TV,” said Mrs Canham, “many times it’s essentially about making life better for normal people.

“In most cases, patients and families trust and depend on you completely. It’s a big responsibility.

“I love working with people. This job has made me become more patient and given me a greater understanding of people and all the different things that they go through, especially those with mental health problems.

“Often, they just really need to be listened to and I try to take the time to give them that.

“Raising three daughters has certainly given me some practise.

“Being a member of frontline staff for EMAS can be exhausting, but it is so rewarding.

“Every time I come home from a shift I feel like I have made a difference.”

EMAS recruitment drive aims to meet high demand on service, hit targets and bridge skills gaps

Blanche Lentz, EMAS general manager for Northamptonshire and qualified paramedic, said the service is recruiting more technicians to combat the increasing demand across the county.

She said: “Northamptonshire is showing increased pressure on health services and, while it has a difficult health economy, targets are being missed.

“We currently have a gap in mixed skills frontline staff and we want to ensure the county is getting the best care it possibly can across all divisions.

“As a paramedic myself, I know it’s a job that gives you the chance to really give something back to your own community.

“While you get all sorts of training and always have the opportunity to keep moving further up the ladder, it’s hugely satisfying knowing you are able to give the right care to a patient that will, if not necessarily save their life, certainly make it better.”

The service is looking for full-time recruits with at least five GCSEs of grade C or above and a full or provisional C1 driving licence - for medium-sized vehicles.

orthamptonshire residents are preferred as local knowledge of health services and geography is helpful.

Successful applicants will be put on a 13-week course, which includes learning how to drive emergency response vehicles and practical and theoretical medical training to deal with a wide range of emergencies.

Mrs Lentz said: “Ideally, we are looking for people who have two years experience in some sort of caring job, but the priority is for hands-on people who are good at communication at all different levels.

“If you join our team, you will get great support, enjoy the role, and get to work with excellent clinicians across divisions.”

If you think you might match the criteria and are interested in becoming an emergency medical technician or care assistant with EMAS, you can visit one of two recruitment days that will be open to everyone next month.

There will be EMAS vehicles and equipment on display, as well as the opportunity to talk to paramedics, ECAs, technicians and management staff for any further information.

The recruitment days will take place:

From 8.30am to 10.30am and from 5pm to 8pm on Tuesday, July 7, at Mereway Ambulance Station;

and at the same times on Wednesday, July 8, at Kettering Ambulance Station.