The work force is a funny place... one that is very different to what I had imagined. We have such high expectations of what we can do and what our careers will look like; it can be a little jarring when we are faced with the reality we find when we actually start working. I’m Lizzy and I have been working as a paramedic in Queensland for the last three years. I think there is a common misconception that being a paramedic is all gore, trauma and adrenaline; it’s a job where you ‘save lives’. This is true, but also, not the majority of what we do. This is where our minds get a little confused, I think because we show up to work ready for the worst case scenario... maybe even hoping for it? That’s what we are trained for.
The reality of our work looks a lot like non-acute work; a lot of sitting around (for me anyway) one day, then flat strapped the next, with no lunch and a lengthy shift extension, driving people to larger hospitals at all hours of the day/night after working a 10 hour shift. It’s draining, exhausting and has left me feeling, on some occasions, unfulfilled? You mix this with (in my experience) a negative, toxic work environment, workplace bullying, sexism, ageism, transitioning from a student to a graduate to a qualified paramedic, and on top of all of that a lifestyle transition. Your circadian rhythm is thrown out the window and it’s a battle to find a healthy routine that works with your ever-changing shifts.
All of this sounds a bit depressing and I think it could be, if you let it, but maybe we have a choice. I have seen how this job can change people, strip them of their naivety, positivity and the real reason they started this work in the first place. I don’t blame them. I noticed within the short time I had been working that I was starting to change. What I can see now, is that we have a choice. Yes, this job forces us to see the world through different eyes, and yes, it can be grim; we see some of the worst parts of the world and life on a daily basis and that’s almost certainly going to change you, but we have a choice. We can choose to keep our optimism, our naivety, our love and passion for the people we care for. We can choose to be kind to new students and graduates that join our force, choose to show empathy and compassion to the people we meet everyday... even the ones who "don’t need an ambulance". Let’s look after ourselves and our mental health. Let’s remember what’s important and why we started this career and let’s lean on each other when it all gets a little scary.