A day in the life of an Emergency Care Assistant.

We’re currently recruiting for Emergency Care Assistants to join the team at the St John Emergency Ambulance Service.

ECAs work alongside paramedics or technicians on the emergency road ambulances, as well as supporting the patient transport service. We asked some of our current and past ECAs to describe their experiences of the job.

Brad has been an Emergency Care Assistant for almost a year.

What is the best thing about being an ECA?

“I always wanted to do something in this line of work. I really enjoy the job, because you are often the first person someone in need sees, and the best thing about the job is being able to help people who need our care. Sometimes you see people in the street who you recognise as someone you’ve helped. They might not recognise me but it’s really rewarding to see them back on their feet and looking well again. It’s also great being part of a team and working together”.

How would you describe an average day?

“My average day could involve responding to emergency calls or assisting with the transfer of non-emergency patients with PTS (Patient Transport Service). Emergencies can be anything from falls to a cardiac arrest, so sometimes we’re working alongside the Fire Service or the St John Community First Responders. We’re also responsible for cleaning and restocking the ambulances. There’s plenty to do”.

What skills do you think you need to be an ECA?

“You need to be a good communicator and able to talk to lots of different people. You might have to talk to a child, or someone with special needs, or a sick elderly person. You have to learn to communicate in different ways. We get trained in blue light driving, medical skills and manual handling, but there’s always something new to learn. I also think you need to be good at problem solving and having a good sense of humour helps. We see lots of things, so you also need to be able to deal with blood and vomit. Although I always wanted to do something like this, it is much more rewarding than I expected. You learn a lot about yourself”.

Jen was an Emergency Care Assistant with for a year and a half before progressing to the role of Emergency Medical Technician.

Why did you want to be an ECA?

I’ve always had an interest in first aid and was a St John Cadet from the age of 14. I’m also a lifeguard so got involved with the first aid side of that. Before applying to be an ECA I did Patient Transport, then the ECA job came up and it seemed like a good opportunity. I did that for a year and a half before progressing to an EMT.

What is an average day for an ECA?

The day starts with a briefing from the Duty Officer, then we check the vehicles to make sure everything you might need is there. Sometimes there’s some cleaning to do and then we respond to any emergencies that come in. We could be tasked with taking someone to hospital after a doctor’s call, or to a life threatening emergency like a cardiac arrest, or trauma cases, like broken bones. It can be quite varied, but the training prepares you for that. We did some in-house training with our paramedic tutor, plus lots of scenarios and training with all the equipment so we were prepared for the road.

What makes a good ECA?

You need some self-confidence. You need to be able to talk to different people and communicate in different ways so you build up trust with the patient. Trust is a very big thing, as is being friendly putting people at ease.

How did being an Emergency Care Assistant help prepare you to become an Emergency Medical Technician?

Having the ‘on-the-road’ experience really helped me. The medical knowledge that I picked up from working alongside paramedics and technicians was a big advantage, as well as having some understanding of how the systems of the body work. I’d say it was a good stepping stone in my career.