Paramedic case studies
Some of our paramedics have kindly shared their career stories.
Paul Aitken-Fell - lead consultant paramedic
Lead consultant paramedic Paul Aitken-Fell joined NEAS 20 years’ ago as a trainee technician before qualifying as a paramedic in 2006. He moved into a support service role as a clinical support officer before working his way up to head of patient safety and then being successful in obtaining the Trust’s first consultant paramedic role in 2013.
Whilst working for NEAS, he has completed a foundation degree and masters to help aid his career journey.
Now, through his role as lead consultant paramedic, he is responsible for planning for the future, ensuring the equipment and paramedic workforce matches the region’s needs.
“I actually started my formal education at agricultural college when I left school and qualified as a shepherd, then spent many years working with sheep in the Scottish Highlands before coming back to the North East to start a family,” he said.
“I joined the British Red Cross, working with medical appliances like wheelchairs and commodes, then worked my way up the Red Cross up to clinical services manager, covering Cumbria and the North East, where I got to work closely with the ambulance service at large events like the Great North Run. Through working with the ambulance service I got to see how they worked, so when I fancied a career change in 2002, I applied through the normal route and joined NEAS as a trainee technician.
“A lot of the work that I do is around the development of where we go next, so not necessarily what are we doing now but what do we do next month, next year or in two years’ time. That can be around making sure we have the right equipment for the right job, so things like defibrillators and ventillators, to working on a career framework so that there’s a clear progression route for our workforce.
“I think the thing that makes me the most proud is the changes that we make as an organisation that I’ve either been a part of or that I’ve led on that improves the service for our patients. For example, leading on the investment in new defibrillators, which has helped us vastly improve patient outcomes to the point where we are currently the leading ambulance service in our survival from cardiac arrest for patients.
“The paramedic workforce has come on massively even in the time I’ve been at NEAS. When I first started as a paramedic, we didn’t have the drugs we have now and we weren’t able to prescribe medication. We have progressed as a profession and that’s down to the professionalism of the staff we have at NEAS.
“For the future, we want more paramedics and those paramedics will diversify. It’s not just about wearing green and it’s not just about being on an ambulance, we’ve developed the first contact practitioner role here at NEAS, rotating through GPs, our clinical assessment service and bring those skills back out onto the road, so we should be able to see, treat and leave more patients at home with the right medications and provide a better experience for our patients. That’s massive compared to where we were when I first started, where the majority of patients were taken to hospital and we didn’t have the drugs to leave someone at home safely.
“There is, quite rightly, a concentration today on paramedics with it being international paramedics day, but NEAS is a team, it isn’t just about paramedics. So I would like to extend my personal thanks to our technicians, our clinical care assistants, our Scheduled Care team, dispatch team, call handlers and clinicians – we have a phenomenal workforce, one a massive team, doing the best for our patients, and I’m really proud of them all.”
Vince Potter - rapid response paramedic
Prior to joining NEAS in our patient transport service in 1997, Vince Potter was a semi-professional cyclist. He went on to become a technician before qualifying as a paramedic in 2005 and now works as a rapid response paramedic, providing timely efficient care to the patients of Teesside.
“My role as a RRV Paramedic is slightly different to a paramedic working on a double crewed ambulance. I still attend all the most serious cases, but what’s unique is I attend a lot of 111, GP follow ups and backup calls, focusing on the most appropriate care pathway for the patient, whether that’s leaving them at home, organising a follow up with a specialist COPD at home team, or arranging medication via a GP for a urinary tract infection. My role is very autonomous, utilising my 25 years’ experience and knowledge to ultimately give the best care and appropriate care for the patients we serve, and reduce hospital admissions where I am able.
“I’ve had so many amazing moments throughout my career, but a very memorable moment was supporting with my first delivery. The parents named the baby Linda after my crew mate and it’s a nice memory for me. Linda actually inspired me to push to become a paramedic!”
Alun Ross - Hazardous Area Response Team (HART) manager
Alun Ross worked in retail and IT prior to joining NEAS in 2005 and qualifying as a paramedic in 2008.
He is now in charge of our 43 Hazardous Area Response Team (HART) paramedics, ensuring the North East always has a dedicated team able to respond to patients in complex or major incidents when needed.
“My proudest moment was when I was stopped by an apparent stranger in the supermarket,” he said. “He thanked me as hospital staff advised him without my swift treatment and recognition he wouldn’t have survived his heart attack. He was with his granddaughter and really caught me by surprise, I had only stopped on my way to a wedding to buy batteries!”
“Since I qualified as a paramedic, there now are so many more options to specialise, as well as an increased focus on primary care. What I love specifically about my job is the ability to enable staff to achieve their goals and influence change to national projects. Having moved from a patient facing role this provides the satisfaction that I am ensuring patients get the best care from well trained, equipped and motivated staff.”
Rebekah Hunter - clinical team leader
Clinical team leader Rebekah Hunter qualified as a paramedic in July 2010, having studied BSc Hons Paramedic Practice at University of Central Lancashire after leaving sixth form college, and joined NEAS in November 2010.
Her current role involves providing clinical leadership, clinical advice and support to operational colleagues at the scene of incidents and remotely within the Emergency Operations Centre.
She said: “I love that every day is totally different, you never know what you're going to experience in a 12-hour shift. One minute I could be sat with a staff member completing their appraisal and the next I could be dispatched to a major incident as an operational commander.
“We step into other people’s lives often when they're at their most vulnerable and it's such a privilege to be in a position where we can potentially make a difference.
“One of my proudest moments of my career so far was being selected to represent NEAS and the UK at the International Trauma Life Support Conference Trauma Competition against other teams from around the world in Las Vegas in 2015 and then again in 2016 in Texas. I learnt so much from the experience, it was so educational and really good fun!”
Adam Gibb - clinical team leader
Adam Gibb swapped a professional acting and singing career to join the ambulance service in 2013 and qualified as a paramedic two years later.
He is now a clinical team leader, supporting our front-line teams.
“I love working closely our frontline and EOC teams,” he said. “By working alongside and providing support and advice to our front-line clinicians and EOC colleagues, we can provide the very best care to our patients by ensuring they get the right resource, first time. It amazes me how much they care about our patients, but how much of a laugh we have while doing it.
“My proudest moment so far in my career was delivering the first baby on a roundabout between Sunderland and Durham!”
Rachael Knox, clinical education officer
Clinical education officer, Rachael Knox, joined NEAS in 2009 working on the bed register, monitoring availability of critical care beds across the region, before over to PTS call handling and then PTS planning and day control. She undertook a range of distance learning courses to gain more clinical knowledge and trained as an ECT in 2014, prior to qualifying as a paramedic in 2017. She is now responsible for delivering a range of training programmes to both new and current staff.
She said: “I take a great deal of pride both in my role as a paramedic and as a clinical education officer, but one moment recently stands out. I delivered refresher training to our clinical team leaders and it made me incredibly proud to see them enjoying the training we delivered. One particular piece of feedback was that our training had helped one of them regain their passion for the paramedic role and that they were really looking forward to the new role as a result of the course.
“I love that as a dual role professional I am able to assist with patient care on a wider scale, by ensuring that I help to provide training to my front line colleagues I am able to make a difference to lots of patients. I have a particular interest in simulation training and utilise moulage skills to create realistic training environments, this is provided for staff of all clinical grades and we have had some excellent feedback as a result.
“The work we provide with simulation has been recognised nationally with lots of different training providers asking for our support, I was even asked to support GNAAS with their pre-hospital anaesthetics simulation.
“The team I work within are incredibly passionate and professional, we work under a fantastic management team who continuously support us to be creative with our methods of delivery and as a result I can honestly say that I love coming to work!
“Even though I have been qualified less than six years, which compared to many of my paramedic colleagues is quite a short space of time, the role has changed quite dramatically. The service is now busier than it’s ever been, and we are now coming out of the COVID pandemic where I have witnessed my colleagues work under extreme circumstances and have had the pleasure of working alongside them helping where I can.
“Despite the increased workload I see my colleagues continuously working towards their own professional development in order to provide a high level of care to our patients, ensuring that we have the knowledge and skills to not only care for them in time critical situations, but deliver care for minor injuries, social situations and safeguarding concerns, all of which create a more patient centred approach to pre-hospital care.”
Andrew Raisbeck, paramedic
Prior to joining NEAS as a call handler in 2017, Cramlington-based paramedic Andrew Raisbeck was in the Army. He quickly moved on to the road as a clinical care assistant before being successful in applying for a place on the internal student paramedic course in 2019, and qualifying in January 2021. He has aspirations of joining our Hazardous Area Response Team.
He said: “I find the role of the paramedic is constantly evolving, and never more so than now, post Covid. Historically, paramedicine was blue lights and fast driving to the sickest of the sick. Now we’re faced with patients with much more social challenges, ranging from primary care to emergency care with everything else in between.
“As cliche as it may sound, I have many a proud moment, but a highlight has to have been working pitchside at St James Park, providing cover to my beloved Newcastle United, or representing the Trust on a national level exercise down at NARU.
“I believe as a paramedic we are in one of the most privileged professions; we are mostly welcomed with open arms to provide medical care as well as emotional support to not only patients but their friends and family in often their most vulnerable times. Sometimes it’s as simple as offering to make a cup of tea or a phone call to a GP, other times it’s immediate life-saving interventions. The job is different every single day and that fluidity keeps life exciting.
“It’s great to have International Paramedic Day to celebrate the advancement in our profession; we now find paramedics not only on the back of ambulances but in, helicopters, emergency departments, intensive care units, GP surgeries, research positions and universities to name a few. Something not so long ago was a world apart.”
Jane Bramley, advanced practitioner paramedic
As an advanced practitioner paramedic, Jane Bramley and her colleagues have additional clinical skills and drugs to be able to support patients at home without the need to travel to hospital.
Jane began her career in the NHS in 1989 after leaving school without any qualifications, and puts her work ethic down to her role as an auxiliary nurse on a 36-bed orthopaedic ward early on in her career.
It was a chance encounter with the ambulance service whilst promoting her role as an operating department practitioner at a job fayre that changed her career path for the better.
She qualified as a paramedic in 2008 and became a team leader prior to jumping at the chance to do a post graduate diploma in practice development, which allowed her to move into her current role. She recently gained her MSc in paramedic practice.
“Amongst my proudest moments are saving the life of a five-day-old baby,” she said. “My main achievement has been the friendships and close relationships I’ve forged with my wonderful colleagues and friends along the way.
“Being a paramedic can be the most exhilarating and devastating career; it can make and often break you, the humour is dark, but the friendships are real and the camaraderie cannot be beaten.”
Tracey Fowler, Emergency Preparedness, Resillience, and Response (EPRR) manager
As one of three emergency, preparedness, resilience and response (EPRR) managers within NEAS, Tracy Fowler’s role covers working with partners within the region’s local resilience forums, covering larger events and advising on medical event cover for smaller events, training and exercising, and everything in between.
She said: “I joined NEAS straight from school on 10 August 1988 as part of the Youth Training Scheme. I managed to convince the then Northumbria Ambulance Service to pay me for the full time job I was covering and was officially employed a month later.
“I’ve loved my journey through NEAS and the different roles I’ve done to get me to where I am now. I love that every day is different and I'm still loving it 34 years in!”
Karen Gardner, head of workforce development
As the head of workforce development at NEAS, Karen Gardner is in charge of education within the Trust, developing staff education and programmes for both clinical-facing and support colleagues to continue to develop evidence-based care to patients.
Having joined NEAS is 1986 as a cadet, Karen qualified as a paramedic in 1990 and has carried out a variety of clinical and non-patient facing roles across the organisation throughout her career.
She said: “I have too proud and memorable moments to mention them all but up there is my first successful resuscitation as a paramedic on a bus in the middle of Newcastle, developing the paramedic apprenticeship and our fantastic education centre and simulation in support of education delivery, working our way through the Silver Covenant award, gaining a Good Ofsted result at our first inspection and, of course, working with the amazing team I have now.
“I love that I see staff coming into the Trust and progressing and learning, developing new education pathways and developing programmes that support our staff.”
Luke Morrison, specialist paramedic (emergency care)
Australian-born paramedic Luke Morrison worked as a nurse and a race mechanic whilst studying for his paramedicine degree and moved to the UK to work for London Ambulance Service, before being tempted by a career opportunity up north to work as a specialist paramedic, providing the paramedic-led critical care for the trust, he responds to our most seriously ill and injured patients supporting our paramedics and delivering a higher level of care where needed.
“I was looking for a role where I could respond to the most critically ill patients so this role at NEAS really appealed to me,” he said. “I joined NEAS just before Covid so it was a tough initiation!"
“I love my job and I’m passionate about prehospital care and paramedicine. As paramedics we are the experts in prehospital care. I’m particularly interested in ensuring we get the basics right. I’ve also published a couple of journal articles in the last few years, one on stroke and another on the use of Phenytoin.”
"I'm proud to be a paramedic as I am trusted to make difficult decisions quickly and I get to work with the most wonderful people"
Sean Potts, operations manager advnaced practice & CAS
Sean Potts worked as a photographer prior to joining the ambulance service on patient transport, based in Hexham, in October 1992. He became an ambulance liaison assistant, before training to become an advanced technician, and qualified as a paramedic in March 2003. He continued training and became an advanced paramedic practitioner in 2015, and is now manages our advanced practitioner team.
He said: “In my current role, I’m responsible for providing our highly motivated team of staff with the right tools and training to provide the best level of urgent and primary care to our patients. I love being in a position where I am able to influence change in the way we work, and ultimately give the best possible care to our patients.
“There’s no one memorable moment in my career, but I’m proud of every baby I have ever helped deliver.”
Claire Gilroy, specialist paramedic
Claire Gilroy was a sports coach prior to joining North West Ambulance Service as a student paramedic, and joining us when she qualified in 2014. Now working as one of our specialist paramedics, Claire and her team support our ambulance crews to deliver critical care and life saving interventions to the most unwell patients across the north of our region.
“I’m really proud to have the opportunity to work with such a great team of paramedics, and how we have all developed the role. I love the variety of my role, meeting different crews and feeling like we've made a difference to the outcome for the patient.”
Shane Woodhouse, head of operations south
Shane Woodhouse worked for London and Yorkshire ambulance services before joining NEAS in 2014.
As head of operations for our south division, he is now responsible for operational service delivery of unscheduled care services in the region, including workforce, quality, and operational performance delivery.
He said: “I love the diverse challenge of working through a problem to a solution; I'm really interested in how we can improve or develop systems that balance clinical, quality, and operational performance to help us provide the best possible care for our patients. A big focus of the role currently is supporting the implementation of our new structure. I also work with our systems partners to address some of the barriers that impact service delivery.
“I've been fortunate enough to have been involved in some large projects throughout my career, including the national clinical quality group which shapes the ACQIs and the national delayed ambulance handover projects. My proudest moment was being awarded the first Zoll International Scholarship and getting to spend a month in America learning from some of their high-performing systems.”