Meet the Crew: Laurie Phillipson
4 April 2018
What is your role at Essex & Herts Air Ambulance (EHAAT)?
My title is Clinical Manager. I have many different responsibilities across the Trust which is one of the beauties of working for a smaller organisation. I have a hand in the clinical direction of the Trust 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 September 2008 we took the Doctors on board as well as a more structured clinical governance system, 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 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.
I know 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 4 years now. Essentially medical students will have a period in their time table to get work experience. We do get hundreds of applications each year, unfortunately we 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 have shown to have an interest in pre-hospital care, maybe they are a member of St John Ambulance for example. They come from all over the world, New Zealand, America, all across Europe. 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. We have Kate from North Carolina at the moment looking into the significance of pupil response. Her project is looking to see if pupils can act as a prognosticator in specific conditions. 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 on a standard ambulance you might see a couple of serious trauma cases a year that are critical however here, 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?
As much of my time as possible I spend with my family. I go 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 that you learn from doing back to back critical jobs which can often be the most important intervention.
Do you have a stand out case?
You do see some terrible things on HEMS. There is one job that I often refer back to from when we operated from Boreham in 2004. I keep a log of all my flying, I’m on something like 1604 flying missions and I remember looking back at this job as it was one of the hottest days ever recorded in Chelmsford. We were dispatched to two very serious 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 Doctors and Paramedics undertake as part of the HEMS team?
The pace of work doesn’t really die off, we have very high expectations of our Paramedics and Doctors. For some people it is not always the best time in their life to do HEMS, we do expect people to go above and beyond. We are always bringing new bits of kit online, recently we have all had training on our new Ultrasound devices for example. Every Tuesday we have Death & Disability where we pull apart cases from the previous weeks and it is expected that the team members will attend this. Once a month we have a Clinical Governance Day whereby the Team are required to pull together an event that will be beneficial to everyone in attendance. This could be anything from creating a presentation and 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 Paramedics and Doctors here 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.