James Atkinson

James AtkinsonHaving followed his dad and grandad into the steel industry as an electrical engineer, 31-year-old James, of Billingham, took the opportunity to explore his dream of working in the emergency services when the steelworks closed in 2015. James took the opportunity to try something new, working within journalism with the BBC and then a brief spell at Great North Air Ambulance Service, before finally gaining employment as a clinical care assistant with NEAS in 2017, based at Stockton station. He is now studying to become a paramedic on the Trust’s internal paramedic apprenticeship course.

 Outside work, James volunteers with his local Scout group and loves to cycle and row, and stays up far later than he should getting beat on computer games by his brother who lives in New Zealand.

 Q. What brings you to work every day?

A. I feel very lucky to have had many experiences in my career, however the ambulance service has provided a different set of challenges. We get to see the best and worst of our patients lives, and its often difficult to deal with that contrast, and I don’t know any other job where I get to make a difference in such a way to patients’ lives each day.

 Q. What is an average shift like?

A. One of the best things about this job is there is no routine or average day about it. We arrive at work, check in with our colleagues in EOC and then we are off to whatever the day brings. We could be dispatched to deliver a baby, attend a cardiac arrest, or assist someone who has fallen. We never know what the day will bring.

Q. What skills do you think people need to be able to do your job?

A. I think the most advantageous skills you can have in the ambulance service is to be adaptive with your communication and be empathetic. We have an amazing education team who train us to high standards, but sometimes getting to a patient’s level and being able to reassure them in a way that they can understand and earning their trust can make the world of difference.

Q. It can be a traumatic job at times, how do you look after yourself and what support do you get?

A. By nature, some of the incidents we attend are the worst imaginable, and its often hard to detach from the emotions of the patient and their families, often having to then move onto a next job and start over. Through personal experience, there has always been different support available, such as TRIM training, HOT debriefs, and talking through incidents with colleagues and managers that I have found extremely helpful. But I find its sometimes best to come home and get out on the bike or rowing boat.

Q. What has it been like working through the pandemic?

A. It sounds like a cliché but working through the pandemic was one of the hardest challenges I faced, and I honestly hope that there isn’t another. Taking patients to hospital that you knew had a high possibility of not returning to their families was incredibly difficult. But working with my amazing colleagues throughout and helping my community, makes me feel immensely proud.

Q. Where do you see your career heading?

A. I’m lucky to be one of the first paramedic apprentices with NEAS, and I very much hope that going into Year 2, I can continue my success. Looking ahead, there are many opportunities available within NEAS for paramedics, but I look forward to gaining experience as a crew, and hopefully one day develop into the community paramedic roles. I have seen first-hand the difference they make both with NEAS and in the rural community.

Q. How do you feel about being part of the BBC Ambulance show?

A. If I’m honest, nervous! It was amazing to be involved, and an incredible experience to showcase the work of NEAS, but our producer Nick was awesome, immediately becoming part of the crew and putting patients at ease and respecting their wishes. The biggest influence for me was knowing that my family and friends would see my working life and some of the challenges we face, something I often never share, leaving work at work so to speak. But I most look forward to learning from it too, our amazing colleagues behind the radios, crews from north of our region, all doing amazing things we never get to see!

Q. What impact do you hope the series will have in the North East?

A. I hope the people of the North East see the people of NEAS, and that we are all incredibly proud of our family in green, and that we all share the common goal of making a difference. I love my job, and the opportunities that it brings, and I hope that we can share the inner workings of our service to all.

Q. What do you love about the North East?

A. My favourite thing about the North East has got to be the rivers. I can’t think of anything better than being on the river in an eight, racing on the Tees or the Tyne on a summer evening. When I have the time of course!

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