Newcastle-based paramedic Joseph Picola, aged 28, joined NEAS in 2014 as an apprentice on patient transport before moving onto the emergency side of the service and eventually qualifying as a paramedic. He likes to use comedy to make people’s days go quicker, and auditioned for a talent show in his younger days for the impersonations of famous faces.
Q. What attracted you to the job?
A. I’ve always been interested in caring and helping people, being able to come into people’s lives and offer that supportive hand in their most difficult time, and also be able to cheer people up at their lowest point. Watching the ambulance service and how they help people really pushed my interest in the care sector.
Q. What brings you to work every day?
A. I love being able to make a difference, whether that’s implementing community care packages to keep people at home with loved ones in their final moments or if it’s coming to help people in there darkest moments, building a rapport and letting them know that we’re there to listen and come up with a solution, talking about our own experiences and then passing this onto others to show them that things aren’t always okay but there’s always a resolution.
Q. What is an average shift like?
A. It can be really slow, or it can be a million miles an hour! Some days we can see a variation of mental health, primary care and minor injuries and really acutely unwell patients.
Q. What skills do you think people need to be able to do your job?
A. Some may say qualifications are important but that should never put people off, I’d say being an approachable person, having people skills and being calm and caring as well as having the time to help people is the most important thing in this profession.
Q. It can be a traumatic job at times, how do you look after yourself and what support do you get?
A. The job really does have its challenges, I’ve been through a tricky time and realistically doubted who I am as a person and whether I could continue in the profession struggling to take on people’s emotions whilst also battling my own. In this career it really does have its ups and downs and it’s important to take time out with friends, family and sometimes yourself. I make sure I’m always occupied on days off, going for beach fires, trips away and dining out when able. During my struggle I trialled various forms of counselling and CBT through the service and this has helped me improve over time.
Q. What has it been like working through the pandemic?
A. The pandemic has really been challenging, it honestly felt like we were one of the only services that were able to respond even though we weren’t. It also made me a different clinician, many patients were scared or refusing to go into hospital, and many others were getting hit with covid and were becoming end of life because they were becoming extremely unwell and beyond help, so we were working more closely with GPs and palliative services to help these patients, who would have otherwise gone to hospital, remain at home with family where they could value the time they had left
Q. Where do you see your career heading?
A. I’ve left NEAS and work casual bank shifts as and when as I’ve started my own company. I hope to continue my career in this way whilst also furthering my studies in primary and emergency care.
Q. How do you feel about being part of the BBC Ambulance show?
A. The show really was challenging, however being with my permanent crew mate at the time was a massive help, as the episode shows our day was full of laughter and emotion in the same breath, and without each other I dunno what would have happened, I’m just glad we got that extra time together to spend and wind down, and if definitely has made my bond with Hayley stronger.
Q. What impact do you hope the series will have in the North East?
A. I hope people understand that the service is always there in people’s times of need however I hope people know that there’s only so much we deal with as a service, and the pressure isn’t as a result of the ambulance service or crews direct. I hope the show shows off what we do as paramedics, alongside emergency care technicians assistants, clinical care assistants and patient transport.