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There are now ten paramedics working as part of the Hospice’s clinical team, with many in outreach, working in the community and in patients’ homes, and a few are on the In-Patient Ward at the Hospice in Pembury, and at Cottage Hospice.
Vicki Wicks was an early recruit four years ago, moving from the ambulance service in Accident & Emergency and then working as a community paramedic, gaining some experience in palliative care before joining the Hospice Outreach team.
Vicki explained. “We’re also used to solving problems and gathering information really quickly, which helps to ensure patients can get the right care and support at the right time.”
Qualified paramedics can join as a Hospice Paramedic, equivalent to a Staff Nurse. With further training, experience and responsibility they can, like Vicki, move up to the role of Clinical Paramedic Specialist.
“When I started, that role was not nationally recognised, but it is now,” said Vicki. “The Hospice sponsored me to do master’s level modules in palliative care, so I was at the same level and responsibility as a Clinical Nurse Specialist.”
Vicki’s colleague, Luke Thomson, followed a slightly different route. After almost ten years with South East Coast Ambulance Service in Paddock Wood, he was ready for a new challenge.
Vicki said: ‘We are experienced at holistic assessment – we look at the bigger picture.”
For former ambulance paramedics used to doing everything to save a life before responding to the next 999 call, working at the Hospice means they now have time to care and make every day count for patients.
“For example, I visited a gentlemen at home with terminal cancer, who had become incontinent. After conducting an assessment and looking beyond the cancer, I was able to diagnose he had fractured his hip and ensure he got the right treatment.”
Luke said: “The Hospice offered a chance to use my existing skills, still working with the public plus the challenge of learning something new.”
Laura Bassant joined in 2020. During her 17 years with the London Ambulance Service Laura’s interest in end-of-life care grew. After a short spell as an outreach paramedic she chose to work on the Hospice’s In-Patient Ward – a job she’s passionate about.
“The relationships you form with patients on the Ward are really special,” said Laura. “You are taking them through to the end of their journey.”
“Most of the time it is more sedate and calm,” she added. “There is always a plan, whereas in the ambulance service things come flying at you from all directions.”
All three get satisfaction from their new roles. Luke said: “With this job I feel that even with limited resources I can make things happen – I can speak to a doctor, get a prescription, follow my patients. It helps me to feel that we are making a difference.”
“As more Hospices start to employ paramedics we are seeing the roles and qualifications that are required are pretty varied,’ says Vicki, who has recently become a member of the College of Paramedics special interest group in palliative care. “I’m hoping that by working together as part of a national group we can help to shape and structure this new career path for paramedics in the future.”
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