Future Workforce Mental Health Project: delivering the 3rd pilot of practice educator support package



On the 13th of November we had the pleasure of attending Nottingham Trent university to deliver the 3rd pilot of our practice educator support package to a group of Paramedics, educators, and placement managers from East Midlands ambulance service. Thank you for EMAS for your warm and engaging hospitality throughout the day, your enthusiasm was very welcomed, and we appreciate all your feedback!
Based on the feedback from our LAS pilot, we delivered the face-to-face element slightly differently, we split the group into two and gave them different case studies to talk through. This created less repetitive discussion which we felt as co-academic leads worked well. The feedback from EMAS highlighted that all participants felt the discussion was the best delivery method for the case studies and one person stated “loved the NQP scenario as it highlights the different pressures they are under and the transition”. Interestingly, one person stated that the session could be improved through some role play, which as academic leads we feel could be an interesting part to incorporate. 
Although the majority of participants stated that the E-learning was the right length and informative for the face-to-face element, a common piece of feedback throughout the group was around the lack of quizzes and activities in the E-learning, we are going to look into this and hopefully implement it going forward!
We have now completed three pilot sessions in SWAST, LAS & EMAS, we are still having discussions with other ambulance trusts to hopefully deliver this to further areas, however, we are now going to spend the next couple of months evaluating the pilot and developing the training materials so that this education package can start to be disseminated within these trusts.
Thank you again to the three trusts that have welcomed this training package, and for your valuable feedback.

Future Workforce Mental Health Project: University of Cumbria Education Conference 2023



Emma Geis and Katie Pavoni, co-academic leads for the Future Workforce Mental Health Project recently attended the University of Cumbria’s 2023 Education Conference, to run a practical workshop exploring how the pre-registration wellbeing curriculum framework could be embedded within their BSc Paramedic Science. 

The session revisited the core aspects of the curriculum and best practice examples but focused on how specific learning outcomes may be implemented across diverse learning and teaching content and within the unique context of a multicentred apprenticeship programme.

The session was attended by approximately 50 members of the academic administrative faculty who engaged in small group discussion to explore how the framework could be applied within their own education practice, such as at sessional module, or at programme leadership level. Attendees then considered personal action points, and next steps for actualising the guidance. 

The workshop received positive feedback, with many educators remarking on how the session had altered their perspective on how wellbeing could be incorporated into educational content in a meaningful way, without becoming tokenistic, or a ‘bolt on’ with their only constructive comment being and that they would have liked longer!

Thank you to the University of Cumbria and in particular Tom Davidson and Gemma Howlett for inviting us to take part in your important event, and for Herdy the Sheep of course! 

Katie and Emma are keen to support other universities in adopting the curriculum For more information please contact Emma Geis emma.geis@collegeofparamedics.co.uk or Katie Pavoni kpavoni@sgul.ac.uk

A reflective conversation on the Paramedic Inclusive Recruitment Conference, with Nova and Josh. 


Last month the College of Paramedics, with support from AACE hosted the first inclusive recruitment conference in Birmingham’s Conference and Events Centre. The primary goal of this conference was to promote continuous collaboration for everyone involved in the process of recruitment, retention, and nurturing of paramedics. By engaging in these discussions, it highlights where we are currently falling short in terms of inclusivity, however it also allows us to exchange good practice so that people from all backgrounds are not only welcomed into the profession, but they’re also allowed to be their full selves and thrive!
Josh is a 3rd year paramedic and is the East of England’s student rep. Nova is paramedic in the south of England and is the Disability Strand Lead for the College’s Diversity Steering Group. 

N: So Josh, before the conference, when you thought about the term “inclusion” within the paramedic profession, what came to mind?
J: When considering diversity, my mind conjures up an image of a university campus with various people from different backgrounds sitting on a hill together for a brief photo moment. 

N: So it seemed like it was just a tick-box thing, not something actively pursued or paid attention to?
J: Yes, exactly. But how can we make this fictitious image a reality within the ambulance service? How can we shift our focus from mere box-ticking and appearing inclusive to actively working towards true inclusivity? 
N: It’s a difficult task, certainly. But having these difficult discussions where everyone who has a hand in recruitment directly or indirectly, like Directors, lecturers, front and back-room staff can come together and voice their lived experiences and ideas on how to improve things, its a good start.

J: Were there any speakers or topics that stood out to you?
N: The presentation by Anton Emmanuel discussing the WRES data. I knew the ambulance sector doesn’t perform super well when it comes to hitting national targets [for employment of non-white-British people] but I did not realise how low it was. However, the data showed improvements year on year, and some decent improvements in management and higher positions.
J: Yeah, only 7%, that number struck me hard. It raises the question of what steps can we take to effect meaningful change? Dawn Whelan in her presentation emphasised that whatever we do, the “on-size-fits-all” approach won’t work at all. Everyone is unique, and we should embrace and celebrate our profession's rich diversity. We can better serve our diverse communities if we encourage and support diversity in our profession.

N: So, from the perspective of a student, do you think this kind of conference is necessary? Do you think your perspective on inclusivity within the profession has changed?
J: The statistics from the speakers paint a bleak picture of diversity within our paramedic profession. Nevertheless, the workshops were an essential aspect of this conference and highlighted good practice. It allowed representatives from various fields, such as ambulance directors and associate directors, senior university lecturers, and recruitment staff, to come together and discuss diversity and inclusion. Through these discussions, we learned how different sectors are working to become more diverse and inclusive. Attending this conference made me realise that we are on the right track. Having so many people from CEOs to front-line staff gathered to discuss ways to foster a more inclusive and diverse environment. It's encouraging to see everyone working together to achieve genuine inclusivity.

N: The statistics are less than ideal to be sure, although interestingly I learnt that LGBT+ representation within the ambulance service is higher than the reported national average! You mentioned the afternoon workshops (where I had the pleasure to co-host one with Anna Perry [AACE]) it was fascinating to learn things from so many perspectives. Knowing that there are currently positive actions happening, such as London Ambulance Service having a successful mentoring programme specifically for people from a BAME background to progress and thrive in upper management was a highlight of the day. As was watching people get out their diaries to book time in to share these successful concepts within Trusts and across organisations.
J: Do you have any final thoughts or feelings about the conference?
N: It’s difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel when you are someone who reads things like the WDES, WRES, and actively seeks discrimination and inequity so that it can be improved. However, events like this give me genuine hope for the future of the profession. And to paraphrase my colleague and friend, Dawn Whelan, it all starts with a snowflake to make an avalanche of progress.
J: The Paramedic Inclusive Recruitment Conference highlighted our progress in starting these critical conversations and working together to address this issue of diversity and inclusion. It also paints a clear picture of where we can go from here. Bringing together people from various backgrounds, such as the university paramedic senior lectures, to the ambulance service and other work settings where paramedics find themselves has made me realise that achieving this change and changing the culture of our Ambulance Service and other clinician settings will require a collaborative effort. However, it is possible, and this conference is the first step towards a genuinely inclusive and diverse workforce that embraces and celebrates individualism.

A reflection from our London Ambulance Service train the trainer delivery for the future workforce mental health project


A reflection from our LAS train the trainer delivery for the future workforce mental health project

Written by Emma Geis
The co-academic leads had the pleasure of attending dockside education centre to deliver this pilot train the trainer to a diverse group of curriculum designers, education managers, link tutors, associate and clinical tutors including trainers for the preceptorship programmes for NQPs. Thank you to the London ambulance service for being very welcoming and engaged throughout the day, supporting us in our delivery of the education package developed for practice educators to support students with their mental health and wellbeing.

Following the initial feedback from the SWAST pilot we removed one of the case studies so that the face-to-face element was shorter, we also moved the structure around of the delivery of the session which the academic leads felt worked better.
There was some excellent discussion developed not just through the case studies but also some of the common concerns around supporting student mental health and wellbeing that we feel we can take away and build into the next face to face sessions, so we thank the LAS colleagues for being open and honest with their feelings and experiences.

The feedback for this session was collated on a Microsoft form, 7/7 participants stated that the case studies were the best mode of delivery for the face-to-face element of the day, however 3/7 stated that they felt this section was still too long, which the academic leads will review for the next delivery. The main positive points of the day were around the introduction of the WRAPT tool and the discussion elements of the session, with some participants stating that it was inclusive and promoted participation and sharing of experiences.
The next face-to-face session will be at the East Midlands ambulance service.

A reflection from our first train the trainer delivery for the future workforce mental health project


A reflection from our first "train the trainer" delivery for the future workforce mental health project

Written by Emma Geis & Katie Pavoni
Firstly, we want to thank the Southwest Ambulance Service for welcoming us to deliver this pilot education package in Bristol on the 4th April 2023. This pilot is to support the implementation of the work completed for intervention 3, the development of a e-learning package to support practice educators supporting students with their mental health and wellbeing. 

As the co-academic leads, we felt that the E-learning package needed supplementing with a face-to-face element to be able to fully engage the audience. The face-to-face session was made up of case studies to put the theoretical learning from the E-learning into practice. The day lasted from 10 until 2 (including time to complete the 25-minute E-learning) so that we could get real time feedback from the participants.

The room was filled with experienced people from different areas to capture feedback from a range of fields. There were plenty of meaningful discussions which enabled us to explore different topics that were raised from both the E-learning and the face-to-face elements throughout the day.
The feedback for this session was collated on a Microsoft form, 10/10 participants stated that the length of the E-learning was just right and that it provided the information needed to participate in the face-to-face session. Participants gave 4.5 out of 5 for how informative the e-learning session was and stated that discussions were the best way to deliver the face to face element, 2/10 participants stated that the face-to-face element was too long and therefore we have reduced the amount of case studies to be able to reduce this for our next delivery. Six out of ten participants stated that the session was beyond their expectations with the case studies and discussions being the most enjoyed part of the day. When looking at what could be improved all points stated to reduce the case studies, which will be done for the next time we deliver this session.
The next face-to-face session will be on the 21st of July at the London Ambulance Service.


Have You Fixed Work Yet? A Question From My Four Year Old Son! A Sad Day in Every Respect and a Reflection I Never Wanted to Write


Have you fixed work yet? A question from my four-year-old son! 

A sad day in every respect, and a reflection I never wanted to write.

Written by Carl Betts
I am writing this piece on the evening of the 20th of December 2022 sat in my living room while my young children are in bed, sat by a warm fire where I should feel relaxed.  

It is the eve of the day that none of us want to be a part of but now feel that no other option is available to us. 

I’m a paramedic, an NHS paramedic, a proud NHS paramedic who is privileged to work in a vital role within our health care system.  I’m also the son of a mother who spent 30 proud years as a nurse in the NHS and as such this fine institution has been a part of my life since the day I was delivered into the world at Cameron’s hospital in the small coastal town of Hartlepool on November the 19th 1980. 

Tomorrow will be a momentous day for all the wrong reasons, and it absolutely should not be needed. Tomorrow is the day that we as a profession and as ambulance trust staff stand shoulder to shoulder on a picket line to formally offer the only option we have left to state how we feel by withholding our labour and formally striking. We are broken as people working with broken systems and outdated and underfunded infrastructure to name a few issues. The result of these broken systems is our patients and us as a workforce suffer. It really hurts us when day-in, day-out we can’t deliver the absolute best care because of circumstances out of our control, where our colleagues are fed up of apologising to patients and their families because there loved one has been on the floor for a shocking length of time and then apologising that they are sat in the back of an ambulance for hours waiting to enter the hospital.   

Tomorrow when the picket lines happen, be clear, we are caring professional people who are making this stand because of exactly that. We care! We care about the NHS, we care about our patients, we care about our colleagues, and we care because we are passionate about what we do. 

This strike is very different to previous. Strikes in the ambulance sector have previously been called due to discontent between the workforce and the organisation who the staff are employed by. This strike is different in that we are not striking because of a local issue, we are striking because of the national carnage that is going on throughout the whole NHS.  This makes my decision to strike even more difficult because our senior leaders and our colleagues who aren’t members of a union or have chosen not to strike (which I commend as this decision will not have been taken lightly by many) will have to cover a service that is already at breaking point, and I apologise to them all for the added stress the strike action I have been a part of may have caused. 

It's now the morning of the 21st of December and the day has arrived that the action will begin. It’s a fine day thankfully, which will make the thought of standing on a picket much more bearable. When I arrive on the line the first thing, I notice is that there is a sense of unity, a sense of we all have each other’s backs and dare I say it a sense of happiness. It’s very rare that we as a cohort of people get to spend any time with each other where we can and have a chat, because time on station on normal days is a very distant dream due to demand. The other striking note was the number of passers-by who beeped their horn or shouted support which is always comforting knowing that our communities understand why we are doing what we are doing. However, there was also the word regret noted on multiple occasions by multiple people about getting to this point and not feeling like there are many alternatives. 

When I arrive home my kids have just finished their pudding and my 4-year-old son asked me if I’d fixed work yet. I said I hadn’t, but I was trying. I soon started to muse over a statement Aneurin Bevin is believed by many sources to have stated “It (the NHS) will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it”. I write this knowing that my colleagues and I live by this, and therefore today I joined a picket and withheld my labour. 

When I started writing this piece 24 hours ago, I noted my kids were in bed asleep completely oblivious to the actual detail of the challenges that we face. I hope one day they will read this and be proud of the fact that their daddy stood up for what he believed and made a very difficult decision to try and safeguard one of the pillars of our identity and force the current, future, and past political institutions into admitting that it is there failings that have led us down this road. It is not my colleagues who have battled through a torrid few years and saved countless lives, consoled countless relatives and made very scared patients smile through our deep engrained desire to care.  

We are the care givers, but we are also human, and we need care ourselves. Please start looking after the care givers as we only have so much to give and like a car, if it isn’t refuelled it will be unable to function.  

This is where we are now, running on empty with very little more to give. 

Time will tell if our deep-rooted concerns and frustrations have been listened to. I’m not hopeful and as a result I genuinely fear for the future of the health system in our country. 

I for one in my role am determined to make as much positive change as I can and will sleep knowing that I’ve done my best and I hope my colleagues can also reflect to the same point. 

Nelson Mandela famously wrote “After climbing a great hill, one finds that there are many more hills to climb” (A long walk to freedom), This is the greatest hill the NHS and the ambulance sector has climbed and there will be many more to go but we can’t climb them alone. We need support and a bit of love from the absolute top of the political system to stop this ambulance rolling all the way to the bottom in a ball of flames. The time is now, we cannot wait. Please listen to us. We are not making this stand just to be difficult, we are making this stand because we feel we have no other option left to us. 

I hope this little piece has offered you some clarity as to why I have chosen the decision I have made today. 

Your faithfully, a very sad and scared ambulance paramedic. 


Reflections from the Emergency Services Mental Health Symposium


Written by Wasim Ahmed
I signed up for this year’s Emergency Services Mental Health Symposium as I was curious. Conversations around the mental health and ‘wellbeing’ of staff have grown in recent years, but what do these involve? What do these concepts mean amongst the emergency services? What issues and challenges have been identified? What is being done to address them? Moreover, what is available for staff in relation to their mental health and wellbeing? 

This two-day event was a follow up to the inaugural Emergency Services Mental Health Symposium in 2021 where several organisations adopted pledges to the Mental Health at Work Commitment (visit https://www.mentalhealthatwork.org.uk/ for more information). Since the 2022 Symposium featured countless speakers and nearly 145 organisations were in attendance, I thought it was a great opportunity to find answers to my questions. 

Wasim at the Emergency Services Mental Health Symposium

My personal highlights of the Symposium have to be the first and final sessions. Beginning the event with the Lived Experience Panel helped to frame its significance and relevance. The emotive, powerful and inspiring stories of each panel member emphasised why it was so important for people to come together and explore how to address growing issues and the challenges staff experience with mental health.  The final panel, Building with Diversity, underlined how crucial identity is to the mental health of staff in the workplace, going beyond protected characteristics like race and gender to also discuss neurodiversity. 

The choice and range of sessions throughout the Symposium was almost overwhelming. It was intriguing to learn about the array of projects and activities other emergency services were undertaking surrounding mental health and wellbeing. Attending thus provided a great opportunity to share learning and good practice with many people who were passionate about making a difference. What was particularly new and refreshing to me was the growing work being done to support voluntary staff, and to engage family and friends in relation to supporting staff mental health and wellbeing. 

As Silverstone Race Circuit was the venue for the Symposium, we were lucky to have the opportunity to tour both the podium and racetrack, which was fun. It provided a nice escape from the Symposium, and another way to interact with other attendees. I was never going to turn down the opportunity of a picture on the podium!

Wasim enjoying one of the Podium visits offered by Silverstone Medical Services

Although it is great we are having such open and collaborative events dedicated to the mental health and wellbeing of staff, I still feel there is huge scope for improvement, starting with the scope of the conversations being held. 

Much of the language around wellbeing and improving mental health heavily emphasises the individual. Informal models of peer support, self-help activities, self-care initiatives, to name a few examples, often dominate what wellbeing has come to mean to many. Yet, as Martin Hewitt (NPCC) remarked in his closing address, the huge dependence on individuals is not only unreliable, but also not fair. Is it fair to expect staff to undertake so much away from work to ensure they are able to perform well at work? Can we rely on staff to look out for each other in settings where harassment, bullying, burnout and discrimination take place? To expect staff to identify signs in other people experiencing issues with their mental health and wellbeing when they are struggling with their own? 

Many staff members feel disillusioned with such notions and common practices of wellbeing for these reasons and more. Emphasis on individual cognitive and behaviour modification seems to translate as ‘the problem isn’t with the environment and system you’re working in, but with you, and you need to be better at dealing with it’. To those who hold this view, wellbeing initiatives and activities are about encouraging and enabling staff to accept and deal with the adverse impact their work has on their mental health, rather than to address the root causes to mitigate this impact instead. 

Wasim with Neil Basu (Assistant Commissioner for Specialist Operations, Metropolitan Police Service) who took part in the 'Building with Diversity Panel Discussion' at the Symposium

What are these root causes? As well illustrated by the Lived Experience Panel, it’s not being valued, appreciated, or supported in the workplace. It’s managing a widening scope of practice and immensely growing workload throughout the last decade with insufficient training, support and resources. It’s negating bullying, harassment and discrimination due to one’s identity and position in the workplace. It’s adopting unhealthy and unsociable work routines in toxic work settings. It’s struggling to live well with a depreciating salary. And the list goes on.  

Although individuals need to be part of the conversation, they aren’t in control of these root causes, of how all these factors manifest and more. These are shaped at a policy level, the institutional culture in the work environment, and the systems we adopt to manage staff. The need to prioritise areas of focus surrounding mental health in the emergency services makes sense. But first we need to have a comprehensive understanding of how these issues and challenges are manifesting to ensure any strategies adopted are effective and sustainable. Otherwise, the current approach of dealing with the aftermath and consequences of problems with policy, culture, environment and systems rather than preventing or mitigating their occurrence will mean issues with the mental health of staff will only grow, particularly in the current conditions of political and economic instability.  

Wasim is a UK-based Paramedic who will be presenting his webinar, ‘The Elephant on the Road: Emotions in Paramedic Practice’, on Monday 30th January from 10.00-11.00.  

This webinar is free for members of the College of Paramedics and £10 for non-members. Click here to book your place.

Road Paramedic to Recruiting Research Paramedic


Aimee Boyd MCPara, Research Co-Ordinator, Paramedic, Yorkshire Ambulance Service
I was still a newly qualified paramedic when I decided to participate in the BREATHE research trial. BREATHE is a study investigating Breathlessness RElief AT Home.  It’s working off the statistic that 1/3 of the people living with chronic respiratory diseases (such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)) and breathlessness who are taken to hospital, are discharged with no additional interventions. The long-term aim of the BREATHE study is to see if this breathlessness management intervention is effective at increasing safe on scene discharges in this patient demographic, rather than taking them to the ED when not needed. This part of the study was a feasibility trial; it’s a smaller scale of the study to see if it is possible and acceptable for paramedics on the road to collect consent and data from breathless patients and carry out the intervention, before a full study takes place on a larger scale to see if the intervention is effective.

I initially signed up because I wanted to get some training and CPD under my belt. I also knew research is one of the College of Paramedics ‘Four Pillars.’

What I didn’t count on, was a respiratory virus interfering with things!
  I completed training for the study around May 2020 – so we were still in our first COVID lockdown. I don’t think training for BREATHE paramedics was initially planned to be held online, and I hadn’t participated in anything virtually before. I think there are positives and negatives to online training – I didn’t have to commute anywhere and we still had our cameras on, so we were given some feedback about the techniques we were using. It would have been nice to do it in person so I could practice coaching another person through the techniques, rather than modelling them myself.

I was in the intervention arm, so I had some additional training on the BREATHE intervention. We used the BREATHE acronym, as both an aide memoire and a training tool, to help patients and their carers manage breathlessness independently. BREATHE stands for;

  • Be reassured
  • Resting positions – get comfortable, relax your shoulders
  • Exercises to calm your breathing
  • Airflow – using a fan, or opening windows
  • Take your time
  • Help with fears, use an action plan
  • Educate – read the booklets for practical solutions to help.
We were given fans to give to each patient, but we were unable to use them due to the unknown risks of COVID at the time. This was a shame, because when I have been to COPD patients in the past, I know they found fans helpful. Outside of the trial, I would give patients a folder paper fan. We did some breathing techniques where the patient looks at a window or a TV screen – anything rectangular, and focuses on breathing out on the long edges, and in on the shorter edges. This helps prevent short sharp hypoventilations that can make a person feel like they aren’t getting enough air, and the anxious feelings that follow. This is so easy and relatives would always take over coaching without any prompting from us as the crew. Finally, to help people relax, we put pillows under their armpits – it really works! People are suddenly aware of how much tension they are holding in their shoulders.

We also asked patients to rate their breathlessness every few minutes, on a scale of 0-10, where 10 is extremely breathless, and 0 is not breathless at all. It’s a good tool for patients, because they can see from their own self report that their breathlessness has improved compared to their baseline. For me, it was helpful to document something quantitative to reiterate breathlessness had improved.

Despite the inclusion and exclusion criteria being clear, it was tricky to recruit patients as I didn’t know where we stood with COVID patients. I would be really interested to see how COVID and long COVID are built into the inclusion and exclusion criteria should we do further research with BREATHE. Even though I didn’t recruit many patients into the trial, I found the techniques I learned worked well with patients having panic attacks, so it was nice to be able to apply that learning elsewhere in my clinical practice.

I really like that Ann, the lead researcher, is proactive about dissemination. Ann was keen to hear from us and she invited the recruiting paramedics to share our feedback, and I do feel like my feedback was valuable to them and will be something that is acted upon. I have also attended a conference where I have seen Ann present the study.

BREATHE was a great introduction to research in the pre-hospital environment for me!

Want to find out more?

For more information on the BREATHE study watch this video.

Read the Protocol Paper - Northgraves M, Cohen J, Allgar V, et al. A feasibility cluster randomised controlled trial of a paramedic-administered breathlessness management intervention for acute-on-chronic breathlessness (BREATHE): Study protocol. ERJ Open Res 2021; in press (https://doi.org/10.1183/23120541.00955-2020).

Read the Paper - Hutchinson A, Allgar V, Cohen J, Currow D, Griffin S, Hart S, Hird K, Hodge A, Mason S, Northgraves M, Reeve J, Swan F, Johnson M. Mixed-methods feasibility cluster randomised controlled trial of a paramedic-administered breathlessness management intervention for acute-on-chronic breathlessness (BREATHE): Study findings. ERJ Open Res, 2022. Doi:10.1183/23120541.00257-2022

Follow us on Twitter! - @YASResearch @AHutchinsonHull @HullYorkMed @wolfsonpallcare


 Find out more about getting into research 

To find out more about getting into research, click here to sign-up to the Research Drop-in Clinic, which takes place on Thursday 9th February 2023. 


My Role as the Director of Allied Health Professions at Mid-Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust


I’m Andrew Hodge, I’m a paramedic and the Director of Allied Health Professions at Mid-Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust.  This was a new post starting in April this year as the agenda to strengthen the professional leadership of AHPs has been rapidly developing across the country.

The main aim of this role is to provide a voice for, and represent the Allied Health Professionals across our organisation, much in the same way that the nursing and medical professions do.  The role focuses on the strategic development of our different Allied Health Professions, providing a collective voice amongst the Trust’s senior management teams, and working to develop the contribution that AHP’s can make to patient care and service delivery.  Without this voice, AHP’s have traditionally been at risk of being omitted in developments such as service planning and redesign.

Having a career as a paramedic has provided me with the opportunities to develop into advanced clinical practice, non-medical prescribing and 6 years as a consultant paramedic in an ambulance service.  Developing into the consultant paramedic role’s 4 capabilities of leading on research & service improvement, teaching & practice education, clinical leadership, and clinical practice enabled me to develop the skills I needed for my current role.  I enjoyed the professional leadership aspects of the consultant role, engaging in national forums to represent the profession while also being part of regional groups which included the AHP Council where I started to understand the issues and developments related to the broader AHP community.

Leading on research and publications became a particular focus of my work that I could see was important to our profession in demonstrating our impact on current and future service models.  Developing our profession’s clinical career framework around specialist and advanced practice required the delivery of many pilots such as primary care rotations and advanced practice schemes to develop the evidence to argue the case for the framework.  

The role of the consultant paramedic is also to represent the profession and provide a clinical voice amongst our operational management colleagues, contributing to senior management discussions through a clinical lens, and providing the vital clinical opinion that contributes to informed decision making.

These experiences, amongst others, enabled me to develop in a way that prepared me for my current opportunity, after having a few unsuccessful interviews for other roles along the way of course.

Now, working in a Trust that provides both Acute care and Community Services has been both a culture shock and presents new challenges in adapting to the complexity of the services delivered.  But the learning and opportunity to work in a different part of the healthcare system is invaluable.  Extending my experiences as a paramedic into professional leadership of AHPs is both an advantage and a challenge.  An advantage because being a paramedic means that I’m an AHP without any particular bias towards the AHPs normally employed in the organisation, and a challenge as it feels like it’ll take years to understand the nuances of each of the different professions within our collective group.

For those paramedics who are interested in doing so, pursuing a professional leadership career outside of our own profession’s traditional environment can be interesting, fulfilling and rewarding.  Many years ago I spent two years working in commissioning and a further 5 years in community urgent care services in advanced practice, and while I missed working for an ambulance service I also knew that I was gaining experience in ways that I couldn’t necessarily get in one organisation.  It all builds upon your knowledge base.

Now, I’m currently going through the transition again; in leaving an ambulance service where my paramedic identity fits most easily and into another part of the system traditionally occupied by other healthcare professionals.  However, my observation over the years of working in different organisations, is that the value the paramedic can bring to what are currently (although increasingly less so) non-traditional environments for the profession, is unique and valuable.  We bring with us a different perspective, shaped by our clinical responsibilities and experiences, and this enables us to contribute in a different way that adds value through our distinct perspective not easily found in other professions.

Just as the profession develops more into advanced practice and can be increasingly found in advanced clinical practice roles across primary, community and acute care, it’s important that we take the opportunities to develop into senior leadership roles.  Partly, for this to happen we need more opportunities in ambulance services for those of us who don’t necessarily want to pursue solely operational management careers more consultant paramedic roles for our clinicians to develop into and more paramedics sitting on ambulance service boards to influence our profession’s and the organisation’s direction.  It will also create more opportunities for those clinicians who are interested to develop in these roles, gaining skills and experiences that are transferrable across the health and social care system.

We also need to develop leadership programmes and fellowships with opportunities for exposure in a range of different environments.  Where I’ve seen this happen, I’ve observed those involved to become inspired and pursue careers in ways that they probably couldn’t previously have imagined.

Looking back over the past few decades, our profession has developed quickly and continues to do so.  As the NHS looks for new ways of working, our profession can, and is, starting to play a valuable and larger role in addressing some of the challenges.  With this comes more opportunities, which we must be aware of and grasp with both hands, even if we don’t feel fully prepared we should trust the process and if appointable then believe in what you’ve learnt so far and enjoy the development journey offered.  



Newly Qualified, Newly Terrified. The Fear of Starting as an NQP


Newly Qualified, Newly Terrified. The Fear of Starting as an NQP.

By Adrian Whateley, Paramedic, Yorkshire Ambulance Service. 

One of my first encounters with a paramedic was as at a tender young age when trousers were everything. I remember my Nan had bought me a pair of perfect gold-coloured trousers, which at the time I treasured. What I didn’t know was that one night those trousers would be the reason for my encounter with said paramedic. Without giving too much away and less said the better, zips and bits do not mix, and tuff cuts come in handy.

20-odd years later and here I am, a Newly Qualified Paramedic (NQP) wondering whose smart idea it was to become one and why on earth someone would give me the responsibility of Morphine.

It was back in 2015 when I joined the Yorkshire Ambulance Service, I started as an Emergency Care Assistant, I remember how I thought that every call was an emergency and that everybody needed to go to hospital. 4 years later in 2019 and a little less naïve, I began my journey as a student paramedic at Teesside University. I loved my time as a student, my time at university was fantastic (I can appreciate it now, no more essays!), I’ve met some amazing people and have made friendships that will last a lifetime. My mentors on placement were fantastic (you know who you are), I went to some amazing calls, and I was based where I worked. I cried and threatened to quit only a handful of times!                                                                                                                                                             
Moving forward, It’s now 2022, I’m newly qualified, newly terrified.

It was the 4th of July when I started as an NQP, a fitting date I thought. I spent the first nine days in a classroom sitting through the new employee induction, before I knew it I was out on the road alongside the more experienced paramedics, not that this made a difference however, as I was promptly told, and rightly so “you’re the paramedic now, it’s your responsibility”. Never before have I recoiled at such a curse word.
Three weeks later and that was it, I was out as a single paramedic alongside an Emergency Care Assistant, my first command as it was, no more safety blanket. I remember how my hand trembled as I was writing my name and number into the Morphine book, booking out my first ampoules of Morphine, the word ‘responsibility’ smashing around in my mind, wondering what manner of horror was going to come through on the screen. Was it a full moon? Who was I going to kill? Is it home time yet? A plethora of irrational thoughts. In reality, it was a ‘standard’ shift, I attended a few mental health related calls and took a few people to hospital, nothing too stressful.

A couple of weeks later and I am starting to feel more grounded in my new role. I have achieved a number of firsts such as my first self-care, my first missed cannula (as an NQP, I missed loads as a student) and administering my first dose of Morphine, which was quite an experience. I recall he was an anxious gentleman with severe crushing chest pain, he had never had Morphine before and so I started with a small dose of 2mg, the effects of which caused him to have a panic attack and become short of breath, which in turn caused me to become panicked and short of breath thinking id given this gentleman a lethal dose! Clearly I was wrong and a few minutes later we were both fine. Needless to say, I put the Morphine down.

I am now 10 weeks into my role, and it is still early days, I am feeling far more confident than I was in July.  I have found that the single most effective tool against the fear and something that I have learnt over these short months is to understand and accept it. It's ok to be afraid, it’s a normal part of the process and a process which every paramedic, nay every member of the ambulance service goes through when they first start, some of us twice! It does get easier with time and the enjoyment soon outweighs the negative. It’s important to record reflections and maintain a good level of CPD, I have found that doing so has helped me tenfold with my confidence and insecurities. If however you do find that things are starting to get the better of you and you are starting to feel overwhelmed, remember that you are only human, it is ok and do not be afraid to speak to someone about it.
The College of Paramedics have recently launched the WRAP tool to support both student paramedics and early career paramedics. This online tool encourages users to reflect on specific incidents from a psychological or emotional perspective. It is laid out as a simple form for completion at any time and it can remain personal and private to the user or be shared easily with a mentor or educator if needed. Click here for more information. 


Ambulance Pressures Today and Everyday


Ambulance Pressures Today and Everyday

By Liz Harris   

The stark images of queues of Ambulances lining up outside of Emergency Departments is an unmistakeable and bleak warning signal of a whole system that is in trouble and not delivering the healthcare that we would expect in this country.

Paramedics and our ambulance colleagues turn up to work every shift to make a difference to someone’s life, to improve life, to save a life. They don’t go to work to be stood in a queue for hours and hours. This is an appalling waste of the NHS’s most valuable asset, its staff. And for every ambulance in that queue that is one less available to respond to the next 999 call, hence the long waits for an Ambulance that the public are having to experience and endure currently.

Paramedics and their Ambulance colleagues know that while they are stood in that queue, 999 calls are coming in and other patients are waiting, maybe even their own family and friends are waiting. Not only do they know this, they can hear it too. Ambulance staff carry radios and in some areas call centre staff will broadcast a plea to them to call clear and available, as they have 999 calls waiting or one of their colleagues working alone on an ambulance car is with a seriously ill patient and asking for assistance. The echo of the message resonates along the queues of paramedics standing by their occupied stretches at ED, powerless to respond.

This reality is unabating and has a detrimental effect on their personal and professional wellbeing. Paramedics are arriving at people who have deteriorated, and people who have died because of the delay in the time it’s taken the ambulance to get there, the guilt and the burden of this builds over time. Having to repeatedly manage this and the often overwhelming but totally understandable fears and frustrations of affected families is exhausting.

The situation is just as grim for the Emergency Control Centre staff too, the 999 call takers and Ambulance Dispatch teams, who arrive at work to computer screens full of what we call ‘stacking calls’, that’s hundreds of 999 calls waiting for an ambulance to become available, with the painful knowledge that they will never get to the bottom of that stack and manage to deal with everyone, no matter how many hours that they work.

The situation is breaking our ambulance workforce and breaking our hearts.

Paramedics and ambulance colleagues are currently seeing the usual mix of patients including anecdotally more calls to people experiencing significant difficulty with their mental health. Covid has lengthened pre-planned waiting times so people have had their treatments and procedures delayed, which leads to more urgent complications that might now require 999 or ED. And of course, we currently have the high temperatures contributing towards more demand on healthcare.

Hospitals are seeing more people accessing through the ‘front door’ of the ED or 999 and together with not enough people leaving and going home through the back door, it means that hospitals have many more patients than they have the capacity or the space for. The discharging of patients from hospital is a really important factor to highlight as the process of getting someone home from hospital requires an efficiently functioning system including adequately funded community and social care services.

The sustainability of an underfunded and overstretched NHS is not a new debate. Neither is the increase in demand for ambulance responses or the long ambulance handover delays seen at the moment. It must be remembered that this situation did not just arrive during the dark nights of the pandemic. Many of these issues have been repeatedly highlighted by a range of organisations for over 10 years. The difference now, is that the scale of the issues are beyond what any of us have ever experienced. We are way beyond the point of increased risk, we are facing a public health crisis, and if those in government could wholeheartedly accept and acknowledge this as a reality, that could be the first step towards tangible and implementable solutions.

Within the demoralising and desperation of this unfolding catastrophe, it is really important to not apportion blame to specific areas of the NHS or organisations within it, it’s not the Ambulance Services fault, it’s not the EDs fault, it’s not the GPs fault, it’s not the patient’s fault.

There is no simple solution, not to a complex and chronic problem such as this. This situation is a result of many intertwined issues. An historical lack of funding, a lack of systemwide planning with regards to developing connected and integrated 24/7 services, and a lack of setting out what the future workforce looks like in terms of numbers and skills required to deliver the healthcare needed.

The College of Paramedics will continue to push hard and lobby alongside our healthcare colleagues in the hope that the emotive words and appalling truths in the headlines will instigate some real change that makes a positive difference to paramedics working lives, the care that they can provide to the public and the ambulance sectors capacity to deliver a safe and effective service to those in the most need.

Liz Harris, Head of Professional Standards

Retention in the World of Frontline Ambulance Staff: The Seesaw Balance of Frustration and Contentment


Retention in the World of Frontline Ambulance Staff: The Seesaw Balance of Frustration and Contentment

By Carl Betts  

We as a cohort of individuals who work within the varied roles of the ambulance sector are one of the key threads that keep the fabric of pre-hospital emergency and urgent medicine intact.

Through multiple factors these threads are now wearing thin, fraying, and starting to fall apart which is having a direct impact on our crew’s health and wellbeing as well as the care that ambulance services offer patients.

Currently the retention rate within the frontline ambulance sector is dire which, if it came with warning lights, would light up a dashboard like a Christmas tree. As this issue has worsened over time, we have grown to live with the situation. We now find ourselves at present with the warning lights being so bright that they are ready to combust. This issue has been present for a long time and will only carry on getting worse if significant changes are not made to the profession, and within the wider scope of the NHS.

For many of us in frontline work the general feeling of being a back stop for the NHS can and does cause a lot of frustration to crews who feel like they are mopping up other NHS services work that are also under considerable strain. Now let’s please be clear, this is no fault of our other NHS service colleagues directly. This, as with many other sectors, is due to years of mismanagement and a clear lack of long-term vision. The lack of vison has left primary and community care at crisis point. By its very nature this is causing a knock-on effect, increasing the pressure in the acute setting.

The word frustration is a key one at this point. We all to work to do the best we can for the patients that are in our care. We as a cohort of staff did not join this profession to see one or two patients in a 10-hour shift and spend the rest of it sat in a hospital car park with a patient who needs hospital treatment and assessment. This current state of play seems to be a now “Business As Usual” (BAU) with no clear end in sight.

Currently the “frustration seesaw” is hugely biased to the wrong side. Whatever role we work in, if the positives outweigh the negatives, we can gain some contentment. No role is perfect unless you’re very lucky, but there is a balance to be had between the level of negativity and where that negativity sits in your day-to-day life.

As we all know a “seesaw”” has two ends and a pivot point in the middle. The weights at either end are that of contentment and frustration with the central pivot being the patients. Frustration and contentment aren’t discussed a lot taken as a pair in the ambulance service. In isolation, the word frustration is used daily, but sadly I can’t recall the last time I heard a colleague hint at being content at work!

The things that never change are the patients, thus becoming the central pivot. Yes, over time the acuity and the volume of patients we see may have changed, but the steadfast part of the ambulance world is that there will always be patients and they should be at the centre of all we do. However, without a content workforce and functioning organisation we will never be able to offer the best service to our service users. If a service looks after its staff then staff will look after the service and help to ensure the best service possible is available for our patients.

The seesaw within the ambulance sector is currently hugely frustration heavy. When we become frustrated lacking a vison then the feeling of contentment disappears. If we cannot be content, we will always be looking for a way out and if frustration is the key weight on the seesaw, then the positive / negative equation will always be out of balance favouring frustration.

This imbalance leads to staff becoming disillusioned, annoyed, angry, and burnt out, resulting in high levels of staff absence. On occasions really good staff leave the ambulance service altogether.

It is imperative that this seesaw is weighted the other way so that contentment becomes the key gold standard and the only acceptable option. Currently I cannot see where this will come from which is a very depressing situation and leaves me feeling genuinely sad that this great career path is very quickly becoming a no-go for many. The increased risk of burn out being ever present for the staff that do choose to do continue. This mental burn-out not only has profound long-term consequences for the person involved, but also for their nearest and dearest.

We must act now with all the vigour and resources available to the sector to ensure the seesaw is tipped from “frustration to contentment” for the long term. Many Trusts are looking at rotational opportunities for clinicians as accepted by Health Educational England’s Model. As for Emergency Care Assistants, there are now opportunities to complete their Associate Ambulance Practitioner (AAP) as well as accepting that flexible working agreements are key to supporting our colleagues. This is positive but is it too little too late to alter the trend of organisational staff retention issues? The seesaw has been weighted the wrong way for far too long and has affected far too many colleagues and families for it to be acceptable. This is now the legacy we have been left with and it’s not one to be proud of. If the world of ambulance life is to be seen as a long-term career option things must change and some very big decisions way out of the normal organisational cultural boundaries need to happen. One such way is humanising our colleagues and understanding their other skills and attributes. By doing this we should then be guiding people into short term redeployment before they are too far down the burn out road and be actively doing all we can to stop staff going off sick as this not only adds value to the person but also the organisation.

I am genuinely fearful for our profession in the frontline ambulance setting. Staff being unable to cope and the potential long-term damage our profession is doing to some wonderful human beings who will bend over backwards to support their colleagues and patients. The question is: Who will bend over backwards to support them? I would love to be able to offer you the answer to this question, but I can’t and that just leaves me feeling sad.

The profession I love and the people who I highly respect and admire are crumbling in front of our eyes. Let’s hope that one day soon our seesaw will be firmly weighted to contentment and that this fabulous career will be seen as just that again, as opposed to a job that will make you ill and fill you with disillusion.

Carl Betts – Paramedic

Launching the Rejuvenate. Thrive. Breathe. (RTB) Paramedic Wellness Programme


Even when we’re having a good day, stress and feeling tired can mean that we’re not fully focused and can prevent us from being our best selves in the workplace and at home. We know that too much stress, burnout, and moral distress – where we are not able to care for patients in the way that we know that we need to, can lead to disengagement, frustration, and feeling psychologically and physically unwell. The covid-19 pandemic has perpetuated this. Never has being well and feeling well been of greater importance.

Much work is ongoing at the College around the organisational and structural factors influencing paramedic psychological wellbeing - how we are and how we’re doing. This includes partnering with other organisations to prevent suicide within the ambulance sector. Whilst this work continues, practically supporting paramedic wellness is also a top priority and is aligned with our strategic aims. 

We are excited that funding from the Covid Healthcare Support Appeal (CHSA) has enabled us to launch today, a new wellness programme – specifically for paramedic members. Supported by an evidence-base and scientifically grounded approach, the Rejuvenate. Thrive. Breathe. programme of psychological wellness supports takes an innovative and fresh approach. 

Recognising that our lives are complex and ever-changing, with twists, turns and roller-coaster moments, we know that everyone’s wellness journey is different. So, when it comes to our own psychology, there is no one approach or support that suits everyone. 

This is why the RTB wellness programme offers something different. It allows members to access psychological wellness support in ways that compliments a diversity of needs. 

The first of these exciting opportunities involves the Great British outdoors. 

It is widely acknowledged that being in nature, in the outdoors, is rejuvenating and beneficial to wellbeing. A wide range of international scientific studies confirm this and demonstrate the healing and grounding impact of spending time in natural environments. Being outside has even been shown to enhance immune system functioning as well as increase energy levels, improve sleep, reduce blood pressure, and stress, and improve mood. 

Our Rejuvenate. Thrive. Breathe. programme launches by offering paramedic members opportunity to experience the freedom of spending time exclusively in wild, natural, and beautiful destinations within the UK. In collaboration with qualified experts from Blackdog Outdoors and Mind over Mountains, we are offering a choice of day-walks, mountain/hills skills courses, and a three-day psychological wellness retreat. 

Before you sign up, we encourage you to use the mental health continuum to identify where your mental health is currently at. This will help you to know if these opportunities will be most suited to you.

How to use the mental health continuum.
The mental health continuum visual illustration.

See the latest Rejuvenate. Thrive. Breathe. events on offer here.

Day walks

Hosted by Blackdog Outdoors accredited leaders and mental health first aiders, there are six different events to choose from – all in stunning locations across the UK. Each walk offers a little escape from daily life where you can breathe in and reconnect with the world around you, as well as meet other paramedics from around the country. The walks are most suited to those members who are ‘thriving’ or ‘surviving’, members who feel they just need a bit of time out, to get away into the open countryside, and have a breather.

You don’t need to be super-fit – these walks are of low to moderate intensity, where emphasis is on recharging, rebalancing, and enjoying rather than it being a race. There are twelve spaces available per walk.

Mountain/Hills skills courses

A two-day formal course affiliated to the Mountain Training Association that will offer members the necessary skills and training to safely be able to hike in the hills and mountains of the UK., thereby equipping you with a new, positive coping strategy for your wellbeing. 

This is a course that is most suited to members who are ‘thriving’ or ‘surviving’. Due to safety and course requirements, numbers are strictly limited to eight members per course.

Wellness retreat

Facilitated by colleagues at Mind over Mountains, this is an opportunity for those members who are finding life tough and feel that their mental health is being impacted. We are offering a three-day retreat in a tranquil and secluded area of the Peak District; a safe haven where you can take a breather and invest time in you. The experts have hand-picked two stunning day walks in the hills giving opportunity for connection, calmness, self-reflection, and relaxation. During the retreat, you’ll have time for mindfulness and meditation to help you focus on the nature around you, and release stress. You’ll also have the unique experience of an evening talk from an inspirational speaker or mental health advocate. This retreat offers a safe and confidential space where participants are encouraged to access the life coaches and counsellors who will be joining the event. 

Members who are ‘surviving’ or ‘struggling’; who perhaps are feeling burned out, exhausted, anxious, of low mood, have experienced trauma, or are affected by a difficult life event such as loss/ bereavement, are those who are most suited to this outdoor opportunity. 

This is a unique and bespoke event for members and only 18 spaces are available.

Important bits: 

We know that times are difficult for many right now, and financial pressures may be a barrier to spending time on ourselves, which is why each of these supports are being offered to members for free – thanks to generous funding from the CHSA.

They are not backpacking trips or boot camps. Each event is an opportunity for recuperation and rejuvenation – to enhance psychological and physical wellbeing and to enable you to feel well. 

You’ll need to feel comfortable enough being in outdoor spaces with limited access to facilities during the activities. This may include limited phone signal. You’ll also need a general level of fitness that you’ll be able to walk for the duration of the event – on average, this will be around six hours per day, although depending on factors such as the weather, this may be more or less. More details are available on the events webpages.

We strongly advise that to get the most from the event, you are not booked to be at work on the same day (such as doing an evening or night shift). You need time out for you, and this is strongly the ethos of these activities. 

Each event is offered on a first come – first served basis. However, if they prove popular, we may be able to add further dates in the future. Because places are limited, we suggest that members only sign up for one event. If an event is full, you will be placed onto a reserve list.

If using the mental health continuum, you identify that you are in crisis, it is really important to prioritise your wellbeing right now – seek support and talk with your employer, contact your GP, reach out to The Ambulance Staff Charity (TASC), NHS Practitioner Health, your family, and/or friends. 

TASC – www.theasc.org.uk 
NHS Practitioner Health (England & Scotland) - www.practitionerhealth.nhs.uk 

Benefits of the RTB wellness outdoor programme:

Sense of freedom, enjoyment & time out from daily life and routines
Spending time in an incredible place
Interconnectedness – with the natural environment & those around you
Feel calmer and more relaxed
Safe space to try something new
Personal empowerment & accomplishment
Trust in oneself, and in others
Increased sense of worth and personal value
Holistic benefits to physical health 
‘Lift’ feelings that may have been weighing you down
Access to confidential psychological wellbeing support

If you would like further information about the RTB wellness programme, please contact Paramedic Mental Health Project Lead, Jo Mildenhall – Jo.Mildenhall@collegeofparamedics.co.uk or our events team – events@collegeofparamedics.co.uk 

See the latest Rejuvenate. Thrive. Breathe. events on offer here.


Removing the mask: Virtually Connecting in a Pandemic


Paramedics are used to working in close-knit teams, after all, we share in
the good, and the not so good, the difficult calls and ones that are really rewarding. We work together during holidays such as Christmas and at times of the year that are special to us. We’re there, day and night, working alongside each other, whether that be in an ambulance, an operations centre or control room, a hospital emergency department, or on the battlefield. But, when it comes to our mental wellbeing, something very hardy within our culture can stop us, and hold us back from sharing with others, exactly how we feel. That to do so, would be awkward, would show vulnerability, and perhaps wouldn’t really fit with how we see ourselves as paramedics who can, and have to deal with whatever is placed in front of us

Just as we might go from ‘job to job’ or ‘patient to patient’, our thoughts and emotions about the things that we see and experience, can bounce along in rhythm to this, and get lost along the way and maybe not even recognised by us at all. Yet, unknowingly to us, sometimes, they remain within, with more difficult experiences adding to the pot over time. 

Whilst, of course, everyone’s experiences are deeply personal and may or may not resonate with things that have presented in our own lives, there is something to be said for having the support and understanding of those who know the job that we do. Sadly, with rising demand and expectations for healthcare, down-time between calls to recuperate with colleagues is more difficult to take, especially given the additional pressures experienced over the last couple of years. We know that research has also identified that 69% of emergency responders feel that their mental health has deteriorated due to the pandemic’ (Mind, 2021). 

As such, the College recognised the importance of providing a safe, confidential space where paramedics could talk with peers. In particular, listening to the voices of members, our experience of working within paramedicine, and indicative research, highlighted to us that paramedics actively working on the frontline and those who were shielding or away from work for a long period of time due to long covid or other reason, were isolated by the pandemic situation and limited in being able to talk with colleagues and friends

In the autumn of last year, as part of the College’s year-long ‘Paramedic Mental Health Project’ funded by the Covid Healthcare Support Appeal, two online reflective spaces groups were facilitated in collaboration with the charity ‘Doctors in Distress’ who provide psychological wellbeing supports for a variety of healthcare professionals. The bespoke programme – designed especially for the UK paramedic community provided confidential group spaces for members, and were facilitated by experienced and trained psychotherapeutic practitioners

Groups, such as these, are brilliant for sharing experiences, and offer the opportunity for confidential support from those who do the same work, and understand the job and what it’s really been like. They provide time out from the demands of life and work, and a safe space to decompress, chat, and learn about other people’s challenges and what has helped them to cope.

The programme started with an introductory webinar which took place on 6th September 2021. This featured an inspirational talk by NWAS Advanced Practitioner, Craig Hayden, and was followed by eight weekly online meet-ups in the safe space of the two small groups. Each week, participants were encouraged to join the sessions, which lasted for an hour-and-a-half - although there was no pressure to attend all sessions, or for the full amount of time. The challenge of working around shifts was considered, and to best meet the availability of attendees and the facilitators, a mutually agreed day and time was arranged.

It’s totally normal to feel a bit anxious or apprehensive about joining a group, and can take time to feel more relaxed about it. Getting to know the others and seeing familiar faces every week, as well as the facilitators approachable nature, was helpful to the paramedics who came along to the sessions and enabled them to feel at ease. It’s also normal to be worried about being expected or feeling pressurised into bearing your soul to people who are pretty much strangers. However, this is a misdemeanour and not anything that is expected. People are free to choose if they talk or not, and they can choose to listen if they prefer. Nattering about and sharing experiences informally in this way however, can be so beneficial to everyone in the group – a finding that was penned in the feedback that we received.

Concluding just prior to Christmas, the overwhelming value of the groups was highlighted by those that took part. They shared how they realised that they weren’t alone, and how the groups were a safe, trustworthy, and supportive place, where it was ok to share life and work experiences with the group, without judgement – as group rules were agreed so that no one was judged for what they said or what was shared – hence this being a safe space.

Listening to and hearing others who were further along in their journey was a really powerful experience, and offered opportunity to learn practical tips for things that had helped, made life a bit easier, and enabled them to move forwards.

By being open and having a chinwag with others in a similar boat, the facilitators noticed how those who attended started to become less stressed and feelings of being weighed down or anxious started to lift.

Whilst none of us has a magic wand to make things that are bothering us disappear completely, the groups achieved their aim in providing a safe, contained space where paramedics with similar experiences could find mutual support from each other, and through this, they felt better in themselves. 

Whilst some might say ‘nah, that’s not for me’ – and we acknowledge that group support is not for everyone – what remains important is that we challenge beliefs that see reaching out to others (in whatever form this takes) as associated with a flaw of character, or that confiding in others is a waste of time and is pointless, and we should ‘deal’ with things alone and without help and support. That generally, will only get us so far, but is not usually helpful or sustainable in the long run. 

The College continues to advocate for paramedic’s psychological wellbeing, with much work being undertaken around organisational and professional factors which have been associated with conditions of work. We know that there continues to be strides we need to make within this area – and we are working hard to do so with colleagues from collaborative organisations. However, whilst we do this, we are also mindful that providing opportunities for support, and opportunities to maintain and enhance personal psychological wellbeing are equally important. So, this year, as we continue our mental health project, we will be launching further initiatives including additional reflective groups and also exciting new opportunities for physical and psychological wellness. More details will be released on social media and on our website shortly!


College of Paramedics (2021) Reflective Spaces: Paramedic Support Groups, Available at: https://collegeofparamedics.co.uk/COP/News/Reflective%20Spaces%20-%20Paramedic%20Support%20Groups.aspx [accessed 26th January 2022]. 

Mind (2021) Our Research in the Emergency Services, Available at: https://www.mind.org.uk/news-campaigns/campaigns/blue-light-programme/our-blue-light-research/#BlueLightCovid19ResponseReport2021 [accessed 26th January 2022]. 



The opinions expressed by the various contributors are not necessarily those of the College of Paramedics. The inclusion of a blog does not necessarily imply recommendation of its aims, policies or methods. The College of Paramedics will not be liable for any errors or omissions in this information nor for the availability of this information.