Meet the Crew: Laurie Phillipson
What is your role at Essex & Herts Air Ambulance (EHAAT)?
My title is Clinical Manager. I have many different responsibilities across the Charity, which is one of the beauties of working for a smaller organisation. I have a hand in the clinical direction of the Charity, which is something that I really enjoy being a part of. Broadly speaking, I am here to provide the Critical Care Team with the skills, equipment and the confidence they need to do their job.
Tell us more about your career with EHAAT.
I’ve had an awesome career. I’ve worked with the Charity for 16 years! I started in 2002, back in the days where there were two Paramedics. Five shifts per month turned into longer, full time secondments. I’ve gone back to the ambulance service in between periods as Paramedic Course Director, Clinical Manager and CCP Governance Facilitator, during which time I completed my Master’s Degree in Critical Care, but I have kept my clinical link with the air ambulance continuously by doing one or two shifts a month.
In 2008, we created a more structured clinical governance system and introduced Doctors to work alongside our Critical Care Paramedics. This was a big period of change for the Charity, with both the clinical and Charity side going from strength to strength. During this period the learning curve was steep but very rewarding. A lot more patients started to come back to see us, which is always great to see their recovery. The Charity has always been good at trying to pursue leads with following up on patients. The Charity growth has allowed the clinical side to have more funds to improve the service and the level of care given to the patient. In 2014, I left the ambulance service and came to work for EHAAT full time.
I pinch myself every now and then to remind myself that I am actually in this job.”
You are heavily involved with our student elective scheme, how does this work at EHAAT?
I have been running the student elective scheme for about four years now. Medical students will have a period in their course timetable to get work experience. We get hundreds of applications each year from all over the world. We do unfortunately have to turn people away. For me, what makes a student stand out are those that have done voluntary work; some have even led expeditions! It does surprise me how much these students have achieved in their relatively short lives. As well as being outgoing, it is also important that they show an interest in pre-hospital care. For example, they could be a member of St John Ambulance. We can have a maximum of four students at any one time.
When they are here they carry out projects and take part in our governance meetings. The students also get to fly. We are one of the few air ambulances that offer this and I think that this experience is invaluable. Working for the ambulance service, you might see a couple of serious trauma cases a year that are critical. However in this environment, you are exposed to these cases possibly back to back. The project work that the students do has helped us shape the clinical care that EHAAT offers. It helps ensure that we are always one step ahead.
What do you do in your spare time?
I try to spend as much time as I can with my family. I enjoy going to the gym. I have also just got back into drumming, which I used to do a lot of when I was younger. I used to play in a band called Gravity Café. Recently I have been playing a cajon drum – like a box drum that you sit on – with the guitarist from this band in some North Essex pubs.
What does being part of the BASICS team involve?
A lot of the clinical skills and confidence I have acquired at EHAAT I have been able to bring to another charity; BASICS Essex Accident Rescue Service (BEARS). BASICS gives me the opportunity to work autonomously from home in my blue light campervan. The desk that dispatches the HEMS team also dispatch the BASICS teams and if HEMS is unavailable, or perhaps if I’m closer, I would be dispatched. Whilst I cannot provide the same level of skill as the HEMS team by myself, I can provide general scene management, which can often be the most important intervention.
Do you have a stand out case at EHAAT?
You do see some terrible things in HEMS. There is one job that I often refer back to from when we operated out of Boreham in 2004. I keep a log of all my flying – I’m on something like 1,604 flying missions. I remember looking back at this particular job as it was one of the hottest days ever recorded in Chelmsford. We were dispatched to two patients trapped in a car on fire. I remember seeing in the distance the smoke from the fire as soon as we lifted, making the navigation very easy. It is odd which parts of the incident that you remember the clearest!
What is your favourite moment at EHAAT?
Receiving my Health Hero award on television was pretty special! Dr Hilary from ITV’s Daybreak presented this to me at the hangar in 2012 live on ITV. They had arranged for my family to be there, a couple of my former airlifted patients and some colleagues from EEAST too. I had no idea it was happening at all. Getting my job here as Clinical Manager is of course another highlight!
Can you give us an idea of the training that the Pre-hospital Care Doctors and Critical Care Paramedics undertake as part of the HEMS team?
We have very high expectations of our Critical Care Paramedics and Pre-hospital Care Doctors, we do expect people to go above and beyond. We are always bringing new bits of kit online. For example, recently we all had training on our new Ultrasound devices. Every Tuesday we have a meeting ‘Death & Disability,’ where we pull apart cases from the previous weeks. It is expected that the team attend this. Once a month we hold a Clinical Governance Day, whereby the Critical Care Team are required to pull together an event that will be beneficial to everyone in attendance. This could be anything from creating a presentation to sourcing guest speakers to getting a sponsor on board.
We might attend less patients than the land ambulances, however the work involved in ensuring that we do deliver the highest level of pre-hospital care to the patient means that the Critical Care Team are kept extremely busy!
If you were to sum up your experience with the Charity, what would you say?
We work in an industry that is always pioneering new things. We work amongst a team where there are always ideas being generated and forward thinking people can see better ways of doing things. Rapid change and high work load can be demanding, however it can be extremely rewarding having an input into those changes. It is an opportunity to make a difference.