Abbie Sandle

BSc (Hons) Sport and Exercise Science
Ambulance Support Crew

I studied A levels in Biology, Physical Education and Geography and AS level Maths at Collyer’s from 2015-2017. I also undertook the Higher Sports Leadership Award (HLSA). Throughout my time at Collyer’s, I was very focused on following a career in sport and was guided in that direction through members of staff in the sports department, pushing me to complete the Higher Sports Leadership Award and strive for the top grades in PE and Biology. Whilst at Collyer’s, I also completed my Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award with fellow students which enabled me to become a more well-rounded individual and develop life skills. I am still a keen footballer now and have fond memories of playing for the Collyer’s Women’s Football Team in the Sussex Colleges County League Cup Final in 2016 and 2017, and still remain friends with a large portion of the girls I played alongside.
After leaving Collyer’s I studied for a 1st Class Honours in Sport and Exercise Science at Loughborough University. My first job was as a Sports Coordinator and then I moved to take on the role of Community Physical Activity, Sport and Health Assistant for Melton Borough Council and I am now in the Ambulance Support Crew for East Midlands Ambulance Service.

For those not familiar with The Ambulance Support Crew (ASC) position, it is a new role within East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS) that combines the role of an Urgent Care Assistant (UCA) and an Emergency Care Assistant (ECA). The ECA role is being discontinued at EMAS due to the roll out of the ASC role, but it still exists within other Ambulance Services in the UK and may be known by other titles such as Emergency Care Support Worker (ECSW) or similar. Despite the variations in the title, whether it be ASC, ECA or ECSW, our roles are very similar and often, Ambulance Services offer internal progression routes from these roles to the Technician role and Paramedic role as an alternative to going to University for three years and practicing as a Newly Qualified Paramedic on completion of a Paramedicine degree.

Every single day, you make a difference, not just one patient’s life, but their family’s life and their friends’ lives. The job can entail some extremely sad sights, but also gives so many opportunities for you to bring happiness and joy to people when they are at their most vulnerable. For some patients you may be the first person they have spoken to in days, weeks or months and it is a privilege to be let into that person’s home and hear their story. I feel very proud to work for the NHS, and as a relatively new employee, I can see first-hand the devastating effects that the pandemic has had on the NHS and its employee’s, and I hope that I can do my bit to help restore some normality in society and in the healthcare sector.

Describing a typical day is difficult as no two days are the same. You may start your shift at 05.30am or 19.00pm and it may be 10-12 hours or longer. As an ASC you may be crewed up with a Paramedic or a Technician on an A&E line and therefore a large part of your role will be assisting the clinician, or you could be working with another one of yourself or an Urgent Care Assistant and go to less poorly patients who don’t need advanced interventions. With each patient you see, you will assess the patient, provide pre-hospital care, if necessary, transport a patient to the appropriate hospital, handover the patient to hospital staff and then complete your paperwork before going onto the next job. Always expect the unexpected, you never know what you will walk in to – it could be major trauma, a mental health crisis or an unseen medical emergency.

I love my work. Driving on blue lights and sirens is always exciting, but I also feel very privileged to be able to find out so much about members of the public who have some amazing stories to tell and to be let in their homes at a time when they are most vulnerable. I love the fact that every day is different and every single job I go to gives me an opportunity to learn something new and practice my skills. I love being around like-minded people and working with different people every day.

For someone looking to get into a similar role you need to be committed and have a very high work ethic as the role is a lifestyle change – working shift patterns that cover very early starts, very late evenings, night shift and working weekends/public holidays. Being able to have a work-life balance is essential as most shifts are at least 12 hours long and they take their toll on your physical and mental health. Being able to separate work from home life is important because naturally, the ASC role, like any role in the Ambulance Services, exposes you to some extremely sad, and sometimes traumatising, situations, this said, being able to seek help and discuss these with colleagues is an extremely valuable skill. Naturally, it is also very useful to be a people-person, be empathetic, and be able to remain calm in stressful, pressurized situations.

In terms of preparation for this type of role ensure you have the C1 category on their driving license prior to applying as it is required in order to drive an ambulance and complete an emergency driving course to enable you to drive with blue lights and sirens. Some services may offer you the role with a provisional C1 category on your license, but many Ambulance services will require you to already hold the C1 category. To achieve this, you will need to complete a medical examination, a theory and hazard perception exam, as well as a practical driving assessment.

The most important message I would like to give my younger self is to not worry about knowing exactly what you would like to do as soon as you leave full-time education and to not compare your career journey to others. For me, I had a huge passion for sport and the physiology of the human body, and I was certain at the time that I wanted a career in sport in some capacity, hence I went to Loughborough University to study a Sport and Exercise Science degree. Whilst I did enjoy the career path I was embarking on, I did not feel satisfied in my career and knew that I wanted to join the Ambulance Service to embark on a more exciting, fulfilling career where every day is different and where I have clear opportunities to progress and learn life-saving skills. For me, going to university for three years to study Paramedicine, after already spending 3 years at university, wasn’t a viable option as it was important for me to get out in the real world and start earning a full-time salary. What I’m trying to portray is that everyone’s journey is different, some people may study paramedicine at university to become a Paramedic, yet others will start in a lower clinical role, such as an ASC, and internally progress to reach the same goal with time. You may have the same goal as someone else but there are multiple avenues in which to achieve this, and you will reach your goal in your own time in your own path.
What next Abbie? After gaining experience for 12 months in my current role as an ASC, I would like to progress within EMAS to a Technician, where I would be able to use more skills and administer a larger variety of drugs to aid pre-hospital care and be a lead clinician on a double-crewed ambulance. In the longer term, I would like to become a Paramedic with EMAS where I will be able to make autonomous decisions and independently complete skills such as cannulation, intubation, and Advanced Life Support.