2 Back To Basics…

Customer service is key. Normal rules apply, remain calm, polite and professional at all times (easier said than done in this case)

So back to basics – Training & preparation.

4 weeks training prior to going live left me prepared, yet scared.

There is no amount of training that can ready you for the pure horror you will experience when you hear that beep in your ear indicating a real life call dropping in. Fortunately for me my first was a non life threatening call coming in from no other than a frequent caller (we’ll discuss these somewhere down the line). A huge contrast to my second call where 45 minutes was spent listening to a patient profess their love for me.

My mother has always reiterated that preparation is key. I came prepared with my flask of coffee, sugary snacks, notepad and multiple writing utensils, ensuring my work space was clean and uncluttered. Today I would not be caught off guard, I was ready and waiting. I was fully prepared I told myself, there’s no time like the present. I operated on a “the sooner the better basis”, and so jumped in the deep end taking a live call all but immediately.

Why is it then that when said call ended my desk looked as though a toddler had ravaged it and I sat feeling completely disorientated, like a deer in the headlights!

10+ shifts in and this is no longer the case. You quickly get into the swing of things, finding a system that works for you. No more hovering over the keyboard in eager anticipation of a call hitting you. You learn to sit back and relax, even pick up a book or complete crosswords between calls to keep yourself focused, and, most importantly when on a night shift, awake!

So back to basics – Caller management.

If you’re calm, they’re calm right? I can assure you this is rarely the case.

It all comes down to client/patient expectations. I myself have called 999 in the past and have received an outstandingly quick response, but then I called in the event of a dire life or death emergency and unfortunately this is not always the case where it comes to our callers.

A rapid response for a superficial cat scratch is not appropriate; However, it is the belief of our caller that they must see a paramedic immediately and who am I to tell this rather distressed elderly lady that this is not a priority? I am an Emergency Medical Dispatcher is who I am, and it is exactly my duty to inform this patient that we will not be sending an emergency response at this time.

Then we deal with the backlash, the push back from the poor patient whom strongly believes they are in the midst of a medical crisis.

This is where previous customer service experience is invaluable. The phrase “I understand” cannot be used enough. Avoiding negative buzzwords (no, can’t, won’t) will help to deescalate the situation.

There really is no textbook or script to guide you word for word through a hostile call, but we certainly have been prepared to receive such calls during our extensive training program and were ready as we’d ever be.

So back to basics – Staying on top of your game.

Before you know it you’re on you’re 80th call of your shift, it’s approaching 05:00hrs and you’ve hit the equivalent of the runners wall. It’s all common sense really, this is where basic life skills come into play. Eat well, stay hydrated, manage your time and utilise your breaks to rest and re-energise.

Sure, it sounds easy, but when your body clock is still adjusting to night shifts your body aches, your brain quite literally throbs and your organs feel like they’re shutting down and my word, it’s painful! You wouldn’t imagine it would be challenging to sit (or stand) in a stationary position for 8 to 12hrs, but I liken it to the pain I experienced after my recent commando challenge.

You welcome a busy shift as time quickly disappears and before you know it it’s time to wrap up for the day, then again, during the drive home you find yourself questioning your morals, as to wish for a busy shift is to wish for an influx in sick or hurt people and this goes against every moral fiber in your body.

So back to basics – Leave work at the door

I remind myself, you chose to do this job it did not choose you. I had sacrificed a lot to be here and had been applying for this job for 3 years before my application was successful. This job role was made for me, my unhealthy blasé towards death and tough skin make me a strong and robust EMD.

Of course, even those of us whom are ordinarily very hardy can be affected by any call. In my case it was not a particularly distressing call, but rather one which I had found frustrating. 3 weeks on and it still enters my mind when I lay awake at night, it still sits in the back of my mind.

Outsiders would assume we have the best support available to us, those people would be correct. In my short time here I have been offered support from not only colleagues and peers, but also assigned support guardians team leaders and even in the most unlikely places, such as from kind staff in the estates department who are often floating around the hub performing cleaning or maintenance duties.

Regardless of your time in the hub, your rank or your job role, there is support and advice available to you night and day, you really do feel a sense of community and comradery amongst the ranks.

Everyone has their own coping mechanisms, mine is to simply remind myself that if my instructions and my being on the phone can help preserve or save the life of even one person, then I can rest easy at night knowing I have made a difference, and I have fulfilled my civic duty.

So let’s wrap this up…

The basics really are just that, basic. Common sense prevails and the extensive training really does cover all bases.

If you are reading this as an EMD hopefully you can relate to the feelings and pressures I feel.

If reading this as a general member of the public I hope you see that we work tirelessly to provide the best care we can, and will always strive to be better, work harder and deliver the best quality of care we can to you during our brief telephone encounter.

Until next time stay safe

KW x


Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you. — Princess Diana

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3 thoughts on “2 Back To Basics…

  1. When I worked as an EMT, we had an on/off relationship with the Control Room staff in London Ambulance Control. Most of us considered that they didn’t understand the realities of the job in the ‘real world’, except for those who had gone into Control after working on the road for many years. Working non-stop, in all weathers, rarely getting a break, never a proper meal. We faced abuse, violence, actual physical assault, weapons, driving at speed through dense London traffic, and constant complaints from those who had called 999.
    Not to mention the unpleasant and often disgusting sights we had to deal with.
    So when a call-taker/dispatcher told us they were feeling stressed, it was hard to feel sympathy for them, in all honesty.
    Thanks for following my blog, which is appreciated. On the menu on the right-hand side of my blog page, you will find the category ‘Ambulance Stories’. They might be of interest to you.
    Good luck with your new blog, I hope you enjoy it.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I can see where you’re coming from there Pete.

    We were given statistics during training showing how EMD’s suffer work related stress/anxiety more so than road crews.

    I found this impossible to believe, but the explanation then came. EMD’s are taking a raw call, they are the first point of contact. They are the first to experience the emotions of the caller, the incident has just occurred/is still occurring and you as the EMD are there experiencing that with them.

    It was explained to us that by the time the crews arrive the situation has often deescalated, those on scene have had time to process what is happening and are relieved to see that help has arrived and take a step back.

    The second point made was that we can on a busy shift take in excess of 100 calls, and although not all of them will be distressing the likelihood of being exposed to a distressing call is far higher than a crew encountering a nasty call out during their shift with 5 – 15 jobs per shift approx.

    I still can’t quite see how this adds up, especially where crews are witnessing events first hand, but I intend to be out on the road soon and shall find it interesting to compare and contrast.

    All the best Pete,

    KW x

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I left in 2001, but by that time, the delays in London were getting longer, and the use of motorcyles, response cars, even pushbikes, just meat that people could not be conveyed to A&E and were waiting longer for proper treatment. The situation rarely ‘de-escalated’, I assure you. If anything, the people on scene were even angrier at the crew, as they had waited so long.

    I actually went to work for the Metropolitan Police, as a Communications Officer in Special Operations, with the Diplomatic Protection Group, and firearms branch. I didn’t work in a call centre though, rather a ‘secret’ operations room with just two other people on the team. It could be occasionally very stressful, sending units to respond to extremely serious incidents. But I didn’t have to attend them myself.

    I am sure that working in the main Control Room is very stressful, and take nothing away from that. You get constant verbal abuse, and have to deal with incidents that may sound very distressing, even when they are not. (Callers lie, as I am sure you are aware.) Then you have the pressure of calls waiting, and having no resources to send. One of my former colleagues now works in the Control Room in London. She has a specific job, calling back people to explain that they have no ambulances to send. I remarked to her that this must be a very unpleasant role, and she smiled. “Not as bad as having to turn up at their house” was her reply.

    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

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