Olivia Salem

OliviaHealth advisor Olivia Salem – better known as Liv – joined NEAS in January 2020 just before the pandemic took hold. Prior to joining NEAS in our Emergency Operations Centre in Newcastle, the 22-year-old worked at Fenwick department store and Newcastle Airport.

Q. What attracted you to the job?

A. Being able to make a difference to people's lives and help them in some of the worst times

Q. What brings you to work every day?

A. My colleagues, the comradery and support we give each other and the sense of pride I get when I've made a difference to someone.

Q. What is an average shift like?

A. An average shift can vary so much, you can go from a mix of different calls to a lot of the same, especially if there's something like an event on. You always log in ready to expect anything.

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

A. You need to be able to listen effectively and have patience. You need to be empathetic and ensure your patients feel understood and supported.

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

A. It can be very challenging at times; some days are worse than others. If you've been affected by a particularly difficult call, you would normally have a debrief with a team leader, and there's always Occupational Health if you need to speak to them.  Our clinicians are fabulous in assisting us on difficult live calls as well, they're always able to listen in and proved any additional help needed in some complex calls.

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

A. It has been tough working through the pandemic, not just in the sense that work life became really busy, but paired with that everything around us was closing down and so anything that we would do to try and switch off or wind down from work was now not possible.

Q. Where do you see your career heading?

A. I would like to continue to progress in my role at NEAS, maybe up to a team leader position.

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

A. I feel privileged to have been part of such a program and that we have hopefully been able to generate a wider understanding and show realistic expectations through to the general public of how the ambulance service works and what happens when you call 999. 

It was a strange experience at first, being watched with cameras especially on challenging calls, but I got used to it pretty quickly, and once we had all settled in and got to know the film crew it was lovely. We all had a good laugh during filming and off camera.

Overall, it's been a fun experience with my colleagues, and we have really enjoyed the process. Hopefully they will be back for another season!

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

A. I hope that this series is able to help the wider public and people who use our service understand both the pressures and the joy that this job can bring. I hope they can appreciate the process that is undergone when anybody calls 999 and how this directly impacts the level of care we need to arrange for a patient. 

Q. What do you love about the North East?

A. My favourite things about the North East has got to be the people. There is such a sense of pride and respect amongst people in the North East. I love living here and having access to our beautiful beaches, we are so lucky to have these, especially as a lot of people use these places to switch off from work on a walk etc.


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