A Pharmacist Amongst Paramedics – by Edel Burton

An account of a SPHeRE national placement in the National Ambulance Service Clinical Directorate

Edel Burton is a second year SPHeRE Scholar and Clinical Pharmacist who carried out her SPHeRE national placement in the National Ambulance Service (NAS) Clinical Directorate, in Dooradoyle, Limerick from March-May 2022. Edel’s placement supervisor was Mr. David Willis, Clinical Information Manager with NAS.

We have all been told multiple times that a PhD is a marathon and not a sprint. If we are sticking with that analogy, my placement with NAS was like winning the gold medal. This opportunity allowed me to engage with a multidisciplinary team of pre-hospital care professionals, familiarise myself with the clinical data collected by NAS and become part of the team providing patient-centred care.



The Routine

My mornings on placement always began the same way, the very enjoyable commute to Limerick on the early morning train. An additional skill from placement, is that I am now very familiar with the bus and rail network in Limerick!
Once I reached the Clinical Directorate’s Office, I would start with a cup of the trademark NAS coffee, and then begin my day’s work. The team in the Clinical Directorate consists of a multidisciplinary group including the Clinical Director, The Clinical Information Manager, The Clinical Development Manager, The Covid – 19 and Winter Lead, Data Analysts, The PA to the Clinical Director and Audit Support staff. A very welcoming and supportive team who made me feel valued and respected at all times. During my time on placement, I primarily worked on two reports. Firstly, in relation to optimising the process of exporting a medication list into the electronic patient care record used by ambulance staff. Secondly, I also worked on a medication safety report which consisted of auditing the use of controlled drugs over a yearly period.
Mornings usually consisted of data entry or report composition. I was very fortunate that throughout the day if I ever had a query or question, I could approach any member of the team and was always assisted.

During lunchtime it became custom that I would go for a walk in the local rugby club with my supervisor. These walking meetings were a hallmark of Clinical Directorate culture. They were one of the highlights of my placement with NAS, as they allowed me to bounce ideas off David, and have time to tease out tasks and discuss potential approaches to bodies of work.
After that, the afternoon could look different every day. Sometimes I might be asked to pharmaceutically analyse a report or offer an insight into a clinical/research query. Everyday my supervisor would ensure we had a meeting to discuss the progress of my assigned tasks, ask any questions and work through any PhD-related queries. Outside of this time I would be analysing data or reviewing resources to include in my assigned reports.

The Supervisor

I was very lucky to have had David Willis as my placement supervisor. Although this was the first placement facilitated by the Clinical Directorate, David was a born leader. He ensured to have contact with me before the placement to answer any questions and provide practical information. We began the placement by discussing expectations and our individual approaches, and how these would work together.
David highlighted what he hoped I would gain from the placement and how my skills might benefit the organisation. From beginning to end I felt it was a synergistic relationship, and one which helped to make the placement as valuable and thoroughly enjoyable as it was.
Each day David would let me know a time when we could meet, and we would both raise topics we wished to discuss. These topics could span both my work with NAS and my PhD studies. These meetings could be in the board room, David’s office or walking around the rugby club. The variation of meeting venues reflected the flexibility and adaptability of David’s supervisory approach.

The Future

As my PhD work is focusing on pre-hospital care, I am delighted that members of NAS will be involved throughout my studies. I strongly believe that my placement with the Clinical Directorate facilitated this collaboration, as it gave me the opportunity to understand the NAS processes and environment. Simultaneously the team had the opportunity to understand my background, experiences and vision for my research.
I am very fortunate that my relationship with the Clinical Directorate continues and that I am considered part of the team. Working the Clinical Directorate is a privilege, and I am grateful to all the team, my supervisors and SPHeRE for granting me this opportunity. I am delighted that I did not need to say goodbye to the NAS team after placement.

As I learned from my NAS colleagues; “Never Say Goodbye, Always Say Good Luck”.