This is a pre-written post.
When I qualified as a Community First Responder, two years ago in January, for my local ambulance service, I didn’t have any idea what to expect when responding to 999 calls in my local area.
The idea is that as a volunteer based within the community, I’m only a minute or two away from a medical emergency and those minutes saved can provide vital assistance to patients and their families until the ambulance crew arrives. In extreme cases, such as a cardiac arrest, I can perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and use an automated external defibrillator (AED) to try and restart someone’s heart, which can potentially save their life.
I recently put a post out for people to ask questions on volunteering, that I could include in my blog. I’ve grouped them together and here are 10 questions people wanted to know the answers to.
Hope you enjoy reading! if you are thinking of volunteering keep reading.
1. How did you first get into volunteering?
Thanks to Eleanor for this question. It all started when I attended a Restart A Heart Day at the local school in October 2018. As a STEM ambassador with my company I work for, one of the activities was to teach secondary and primary school children how to do CPR. I got talking to one of the other CFR’s and it sounded something that I’d want to do so he told me the other lady we were volunteering with organises all the CFR’s for our area so it went from there. I applied and went to the open evening, went to the training and went straight out on the road. That was January 2019, I’ve been doing it for two years in January.
2. What organisations do you volunteer for?
Thanks to Sarah for this question. I volunteer for Yorkshire Ambulance Service, I’m home based and cover the Rotherham area about a 5 mile radius from my home.
3. How would someone get into volunteering?
Thanks to Sarah for this question. Depending who you want to volunteer for have a look on their website and they should have a section about volunteering for them. There are lots of organisations, your local ambulance, fire or police service. You could volunteer for the NHS collecting and delivering prescriptions/food or you could be based at home ringing round vulnerable and lonely people just being a person to chat to. The NHS also want people to work on hospital wards to work iPad’s etc to allow patients to communicate to their relatives or deliver personal items to their beds or you could work within the A&E department. Last year I volunteered at A&E handing out drinks and snacks to paramedics as they brought patients in. Or you could volunteer at your local RSPCA or cats protection charity. There’s something for everyone.
4. How does it feel to volunteer and help people?
Thanks to Olivia for this question. It feels quite scary at first, you are going to be ‘that’ person whom that family relies on until the ambulance crews arrive. This patient you are about to attend are most probably having the worst day of their entire life and you are going to be the first person they will see, other than their worried family around them. All eyes are on you, especially if its in a public place – but your training allows you to assess the situation, calm the family down and treat that patient until further help arrives. You see the look of relief as you arrive on their doorstep, that is worth the world – so anything you do after that is a bonus.
Even if that job you just attended consisted of making someone a cuppa and a sandwich, so they could take a tablet and staying with them until they feel better, then you’ve achieved something amazing.
Or if that person has sadly passed away and you know they weren’t alone because you were there, in that tragic moment it can be comforting.
It feels absolutely amazing, there are no words to describe the satisfaction you feel or the feeling of the adrenaline pumping when that phone goes off. You are transported from your safe world into one of chaos and uncertainty within 5 minutes. Then when you leave that scene to go back into your safe world you know you have achieved something quite special.
5. Is there one memory that had you overwhelming with love?
Thanks to Suchita for this question. There isn’t really one job in particular, they all generally have me overwhelming with love. Whether its from seeing the family that love and care for the patient so much, to them being so grateful for me being there.
One call that stands out the most is a patient who was suffering the same as what my dad did before he died, between the episodes he was having, through which he was conscious and aware of what was happening, he was able to thank me for being there and helping him and his wife through their darkest day. I was able to offer reassurance that he was in safe hands and would be off to hospital and straight to surgery. It was a terrifying job for all involved and one I wont ever forget. But this gave me so much overwhelming love and respect to those paramedics that arrived there that day, just as those would have for my dad ten years ago. We don’t usually get to find out what happens to each patient as we move to the next, but I like to think he’s home ready to celebrate Christmas with his family now.
6. How do you find it rewarding and what do you get out of it?
Thanks to Kayleigh for this question. Just knowing you have helped someone in their hour of need is rewarding in itself, it feels good to help people and be there for them. I’ve also gained more medical knowledge the more jobs I’ve been out to, some of the ambulance crews will happily let you assist them with their checks, such as ECG, and talk you through what they are doing with hints and tips.
7. Why do you feel its worth recommending?
Thanks to Kayleigh for this question. It can be such hard work sometimes depending on the jobs you get but on the whole its so rewarding and makes you feel great for helping. You’ll make new friends, have new experiences and gain skills you never thought you would.
8. What kind of hours do you do and how do you fit it around other responsibilities?
Thanks to Ellie for this question. I try to do around 7 hours minimum a week, those are the guidelines but anything is appreciated, but you can do more one week or less another week, it works out on average 7 hours. I either spread it out during a couple of evenings a week or I do it in one day over a weekend. Sometimes I use my annual leave days from my career and volunteer, I’m home based when I do it so it works out ok.
9. What training/qualifications are required?
Thanks to Ellie for this question. You need to pass the criteria to be able to respond as a CFR, which is:
- be aged 18 or over
- hold a valid, full UK driving licence, with no more than three penalty points
- have access to a vehicle, you will be responding in your own car
- be prepared to undertake a Disclosure and Barring Service Check
- be prepared to undertake occupational health screening
- be prepared to undertake our CFR course, including first aid, defibrillator and oxygen training
- attend a welcome evening and introduction to the Ambulance Service.
10. How was your experience while you are volunteering and what have you gained?
Thanks to KORD for this question. I have loved and hated volunteering. I love it because it gives me so much back, satisfaction and skills and I hate it because it pushes me out of my comfort zone so much! It helps me build my confidence and people skills, once you have been to a patients house that you’ve never met before, built a relationship with them and helped them, then you can do anything! I’ve gained a lot of patience which I never had before. Responding in my own car, having to stick to all the speed limits, highway code and not having the option of blue lights- its amazing how much patience you gain being sat in traffic whilst trying to attend a 999 call. Its also given me a focus through some tough times and its generally a good thing to do with spare time. I’ve gained skills, friends and so much more.
Currently I’m preparing to volunteer at my local Covid vaccine hub, I cant wait to help get the vaccine rolled out and start to get the country to some kind of normality. If you are reading this, please be assured there is a light at the end of the tunnel. It wont solve all our problems but its a big step and it should give you some hope back.
Thank you to all those who sent me questions, if you are thinking about volunteering and want to know more, give me a shout!
Here’s a short video that explains more about what I do, if you have any questions pop them in the comments below.
Is there anything about volunteering you wanted to know? Do you volunteer?