“There is a huge amount of variety in this job and every day contains new challenges and rewards. Obviously there are some things that can be difficult to deal with but there’s also no shortage of smiles and laughter on station.”
Nick Ridley is one of six new graduates who recently started their paramedic careers with Wellington Free Ambulance. After three years studying paramedicine at Whitireia, the newly qualified graduates are used to anatomy, pharmacology and clinical research. They have spent over 900 hours on clinical placements ranging from emergency ambulances to hospital operating theatres. All their tutors are highly qualified clinicians sharing invaluable practical knowledge on top of the all book based theory work. Countless hours are spent in simulation labs trying to bring plastic resuscitation mannequins back to life, “efforts are still ongoing with that one!” laughs Nick. Plastic mannequins aside, it’s certainly a challenge.
Graduating with a paramedic degree is a huge achievement in itself but is just one step in learning what it takes to be a fully qualified paramedic. Every new graduate spends 12 months working alongside a mentor who helps them bring all those newly learned skills to life. Nick had a head start, because he’s been passionate from the start about helping others. Nick joined as a volunteer in 2014 following a career in the military. He was ready for his new career with a huge amount of energy and enthusiasm.
“I think what attracted me to the ambulance service the most was the idea of helping people in need. When people need us they’re often in chaotic situations where there’s a lot of fear and uncertainty. To be able to help them out of those situations is one of the best feelings in the world.”
Nick joined as a volunteer to get some experience to help with his studying but says it turned out to be personally rewarding as well.
Getting real life experience isn’t just about getting ‘hands on’ with the service. “I have very fond memories of this time ranging from afternoon picnics at Wairarapa equestrian events to fireworks displays on the Wellington waterfront,” says Nick.
Volunteer event medics provide medical support to around 500 events in the Greater Wellington and Wairarapa region every year. From sporting events to concerts and community celebrations there are plenty of diverse experiences for volunteers to learn from.
“You don’t get dropped in the deep end. There is always a senior volunteer or staff member there to show you the ropes” says Nick.
After three years as a volunteer event medic, Nick joined the Patient Transfer Service. With routine transfers of non-emergency patients it’s not about lights and sirens but an incredible amount of compassion and care. Nick says what stood out the most was the effort that Patient Transfer staff go to in order to give their patients the best possible experience. “Knowing the best lane and speed to drive at to minimise the impact of speed bumps on certain roads or the way to turn into the hospital to reduce the rocking of the vehicle. It’s the little things that count and they know it all. Everything I learnt from the team I try to apply to my practice to this day.”
After years of studying, working, volunteering and a well-deserved graduation celebration, next came the offer of an graduate position. After a lengthy interview process, fierce competition and a nervous few weeks wait Nick says “to be offered your dream job a few weeks after graduating is a scenario that everyone daydreams about but few expect.”
You’ll now see Nick on Green Shift with his mentor Isaac. “Most of the time we’ll finish one job and immediately head to the next one. From time to time we will find ourselves on station for a while and Isaac will quiz me on our clinical guidelines or do training scenarios on the whiteboard to keep me thinking. Otherwise there are always plenty of station chores to do - I’m getting pretty good at high speed dish washing!” laughs Nick.
It’s now been a few months on the road and Nick says “getting constant clinical exposure has been excellent. Allowing me to put my theoretical knowledge to use.” As well as Isaac, Nick’s crew are always there to help when needed. “The team are always happy to answer questions and have striven to include me during some of the more intense jobs. The best way to learn is often by doing things yourself,” says Nick.
When asked what an average day looks like Nick says he promises to let us know if he ever has one. “There is a huge amount of variety in this job and every day contains new challenges and rewards” he says. “Obviously there are some things that can be difficult to deal with but there’s also no shortage of smiles and laughter on station.”
With a big smile, positive attitude and sheer determination to do good, Nick brings an incredible quality to Wellington Free Ambulance and we’re lucky to have him on the team.
“I’m incredibly fortunate to have this opportunity and am determined to make the most of it.”