January saw the start of my observing with the ambulance service at my local ambulance station. My application for Paramedic sciences was in, and I had an interview at Sheffield Hallam in February and one in Hertfordshire in March. I needed to get my experience levels sorted ready to face the interview panel. I'd originally been rejected from both universities, but through some *ahem* persuasive telephone conversations I'd managed to get an interview after I'd been rejected. Just for the benefit of the doubt, so to speak.
In my masters degree I'd taken all my major exams before Christmas, so I'd had a restful festive period (knowing that I'd passed everything to date) and returned to my masters with renewed hope. Problem was, I wasn't certain that medical school was for me...
The more work experience I did, the more I wanted to join the ambulance service. I still hadn't had a firm offer through from medical school, but the fact that I had paramedic interviews had blinkered me slightly.
By the end of the month I'd passed another 2 master modules and done some more observing on the weekends. I was putting in approximately 75 hours a week of work, studying and observing, yet it was one of the most enjoyable times of my life. I still associate songs with that time of the year and smile.
I also did chest compressions for the first time on a real person, and rather alarmingly the entire process worked successfully. I'd been on a fast car (RRU) with a solo paramedic who'd been called to a cardiac arrest. The problem was the 15 minute delay on the ambulance arriving behind us. I'm never one to shy away from a challenge, and once the adrenaline started flowing it was just the same as training on a dummy - except with more resistance. The gentleman in question had collapsed in a crowded market place, and the amazing general public, thinking that he was a tramp, had been stepping over him for who knows how long. They'd then thoughtfully placed a cushion under his head and covered him up with a blanket, while one announced that she worked in a nursing home. Really renews your faith in nursing homes doesn't it. Even I could tell a lack of circulation by his grey pallour.
Anyway, all's well that ends well...the gentleman was still alive the last time I heard, and it saw the month out on a high.
However, I also did the baby...
February saw more observing and long hours at university, as well as the selection of my dissertation title for my final project. I opted out of laboratory work in favour of a library based research project, and it's a decision I stand by to this day.
All month I'd been preparing for my Sheffield Hallam paramedic interview, frantically shopping and trying to prepare the perfect outfit. I was also dieting like a crazy woman for my Hertfordshire interview as they request that applicants are in weight and height proportion.
Thanks to my personal Trinny and Susannah (2 colleagues in my old halls of residence) for helping me pick out the perfect killer heels, trousers and red shirt combination.
It was a long journey to Sheffield from where I was based, and as the Snake Pass approached there was a thin dusting of snow along the road. I was desperately nervous, and convinced I'd failed at the individual interview stage.
The group interview was quite amusing, and I was glad that I'd been observing. Take note anyone who has a Sheffield Hallam interview - if they haven't changed the format, you will be asked to work in small teams and decide upon the use of an ambulance related piece of equipment. Take note, if there's a person at your interview who's worked for the ambulance service in Patient Transport - work with them! I was kind of thankful that I'd paid attention on the ambulance when the paramedics and technicians had been showing me all of the equipment, and had humoured my questions.
Sadly the interview itself turned into an ethical argument about the use of the LUCAS machine - something I don't know a great deal about, but managed to turn into a debate. They also told me that they had issues with Biological Sciences graduates and their ability to convert to a practical role. He also raised issue with my ability to do delicate work, until I pointed out that I painted, sewed and made jewellery.
March saw me receiving an unconditional offer for the Sheffield Hallam course and having one of the most painful hangovers the following day having gone drinking with Trinny and Susannah at a formal university event the same day...
Yet more observing and a lot of preparation for my Hertfordshire University interview for a training place with London Ambulance Service. My first time to London alone, my first time on the tube, and my first time seeing all of the big red buses. I know, I'm such a tourist. I met up with my best friend and had lunch at McDonald's near King's Cross station, before heading up to Hatfield and getting horrendously lost on the way to my Bed and Breakfast.
The interview again descended into debate, but one of a less dignified manner than my Sheffield Hallam interview. I came away convinced that I had lost my place there, simply because I had argued my corner. It's odd that at Sheffield I was interviewed by a paramedic in normal clothing (shirt and tie), and was completely fine, yet a paramedic in his uniform (with a hell of a lot of metal on his epaulettes) makes me fall apart.
Nevertheless, the interview was over and I was headed back through London and back up North for a chilled out evening in my flat.
March also saw an interview at UCLan which was vastly less successful. I'd taken up jogging around this time of year and was convinced I was fit enough to pass the paramedic fitness test. Unfortunately I'd been on a RRV with a slightly ill paramedic with a chest infection. Needless to say, with germs flying around a fortnight before my interview I was guaranteed to get ill as well. Sure as day and night I ended up with a disgusting chest infection that irritated by asthma to hell. I was still doing the fitness test, but my heart rate went too high and they stopped me. I did the only thing a girl could do; I cried my eyes out. They suggested I reapplied the next year and went to the gym more, but at the time I was running twice a week, using the gym 3 times a week and doing martial arts. I also had received a surprise unconditional offer from Hertfordshire. I think Tom was scared that I would join LAS. I am obviously weight and height in proportion then!
In March I also met up with another blogger; the first I had met as 'Merys'. It was the culmination of a long time chatting on Skype and MSN, and I still owe Lennie dinner at some point. It was a kind of weird experience to climb into the car of a complete stranger, and not be able to close the Skype window when you get bored or irritated of each other's company. I think I also made him show me his warrant card too! I don't think I disgraced myself, but only Lennie can answer that....
My Masters was still progressing along nicely, although the lecturers strike was in the works and threatened my degree somewhat. I think I may have panicked slightly....
I also received my firm offer from my medical school, causing a hell of a lot of worry about career choices. I think I chewed the ear off of every paramedic/technician/nurse/doctor I could find at the time. Thanks to Kal, Tom, John and Magwitch (who sent me a wonderful and detailed email about why I shouldn't join the ambulance service) for listening to my rants.
Part 2 whenever I can write it...