#DYWKeyworker - Chris Alves - Scottish Ambulance Service
Wednesday, 27th May 2020
Name: Chris Alves
Job Title: Previous –
Patient Transport service
High Dependency Service
Emergency Medical Technician
Airwave Radio System Trainer
Senior Advanced EMT
Rapid Response Unit – EMT
Current - Community Resilience Facilitator
Company: Scottish Ambulance Service
What attracted you to the industry you are in?
An exciting job and the chance to help people.
How long have you been with the company?
I am approaching my 21st year within the ambulance service and 9 of those with SA
Describe your day-to-day role;
My current role varies on a day to day basis, normally I would be facilitating up to 33 teams of community first responders. Dealing with recruitment of community first responders (CFR’s), training them in the skills to deploy to 999’s, providing them with all the kit they need and also dealing with any issues they have. I also attend community meetings; develop new training courses and work nationally to promote community resilience across Scotland. Community resilience in itself is giving communities the skills to provide care until emergency ambulances can arrive. I also respond to 999 calls as and when required in an ambulance response car, to supplement the local divisions care delivery.
Currently during the global pandemic all CFR teams are stood down to protect them and their families. During this period I have had to evolve to accommodate the greater challenges going forward. Now I am teaching volunteers in vehicle decontamination to help the local stations in Covid-19 vehicle decontaminations, as well as providing welfare support to CFR’s that are finding it difficult during this time. I will be in the coming weeks training other volunteers in Moving & Handling, so they may if needed, supplement the patient transport crews to provide Scotland with a continued service delivery. Also I am attending 999 calls, whilst working from home and dealing with potential Covid-19 cases, as and when required. Due to the nature of my role, I am able to work from home with my ambulance car, as most of my department is at present
What kind of training have you done?Have you completed any professional qualifications?
Firstly the role required a minimum of 5 GCSE’s when I joined the NHS. I attended an initial 3 week emergency driving course, followed by 9 weeks of advanced medical training, then 12 months of supervised working to prove competency. After that I attended a further weeks course to enter a senior advanced role and then a further 4 day course to work on the Rapid Response Unit.
Since moving in to my current role, I have completed training in Airwave radio instruction, instructor courses and relevant training delivery updates. I also attend frequent development days, these are days that give us chance to enhance our skills, such as ID fraud, counter terrorism and what to do at major incidents or disasters
What skills have you learned?
I have learnt how to communicate effectively, IT skills, an enhanced medical knowledge, how to be patient with people in hard times and empathy. Also that if you work hard enough, you will get your rewards and succeed in life.
Have you completed any professional qualifications?
Geriatric emergency medical services course
Mental health courses
Disaster management Professional training certification
Do you like living and working in the Inverness & Highlands?
Yes, I grew up near Birmingham in Wolverhampton and moving to the Highlands has served me well. It’s a beautiful place to work after living in the big city, nicer people and not as busy.
What skills are the most important for you to do your job well?
Being able to listen not just talk, able to keep your cool in stressful times and act efficiently. To be a good team player and obviously some level of intelligence is required.
Was there anything about the job that surprised you?
The feeling of being in a family, similar to what I would describe as in the military. Once you’re in the green uniform you have a huge family and friends base, which really lifts you through your career.
Is there anything unusual about your role?
Apart from the obvious death and horrible things you could see. The unusual for me would be the thanks you get from the public and the satisfaction I get from saving lives. Nothing puts a smile on your face more than going home and knowing what you did, you gave a patient a real fighting chance for survival.
Do you get a lot of support from your company?
There is a huge amount of support, either from training, mental health, physical well being or peer to peer support, from top to bottom. The most support comes from the people you work with day in and day out, the person in the ambulance with you becomes your agony aunt and best critic.
What’s your favourite part of the job?
Helping people is the biggest highlight, but obviously being able to use the lights and sirens is an added bonus.
Did you always want to pursue a career in this industry?
No, I joined West Midlands Ambulance Service in 1999 as a trainee IT technician. Back then computers were just becoming a stable part of day to day life and I was part of a team to rollout PC’s across the service and maintain them. I used to watch ambulances leave on lights and sirens from my office window and it looked exciting. So a career change took me in to the roll I am today, from just the view from my office window.
It doesn’t matter what your plans are or how much effort you put in to become something, life can always throw you a curve ball and be prepared to adapt or change to follow your dreams.
What is your advice for young school leavers looking to start an apprenticeship?
Train, train, train. You can never train enough for the future; never regret that you never took all the opportunities laid in front of you. Because work life is a nonstop challenge that you will train constantly in if you want success.
What is your career goal?
My personal goal is to become a manager and take my career as far as it can go. I currently help maintain 33 teams, I would like to manage or lead my teams from a higher level, to make decisions that affect the area effectively.
How does it feel to be a KeyWorker on the frontline, supporting the Country’s fight against Covid-19?
It is hard; I always thought I have handled disaster situations well. From major motorway car crashes, plane crashes, suicides or complex situations I have encountered.
This is different, in such a way there is a hidden fear about every patient I go to now. We are fighting an invisible enemy, mother nature at its worst if you like. I have attended many suspected Covid-19 patients so far or confirmed Covid-19 patients, as most people aren’t confirmed until entering hospital. It adds an extra stress level, I monitor more how much I touch a patient, am I clean enough to go home safely to my family and am I in enough PPE for the cases that I am at.
I feel proud to be a key worker though, my whole village comes out and claps on a Thursday and although that is a bit strange for just doing my job, it’s much appreciated and a bit surreal at times.
Tell us what makes you proud to be a Keyworker?
I feel proud every time I put my uniform on, to help people in their time of crisis and step up rather than step back when the public needs us the most.
I am also proud of all my NHS colleagues, it has been an immense effort to save our way of life, even though the press sometimes think we are doing poorly, we could have come out of this a lot worse and I am proud of the work all my colleagues have done.