Thursday, 21 March 2013


"28 year old female, lacking experience....."

Right! Rant time! This post was inspired by a twitter conversation with @butwhymummywhy about being judged as being too young! (see her musing on the same subject here) Tell me, who here has been told they were too young to do something? Which mothers have faced criticism for being to young to have a baby? I'm not talking the 13 and 14 year olds, they ARE too young. I'm not even talking about the '16 and pregnant' ones. I'm talking those in the low 20's. At what age is the 'right age'? Who has not been trusted at work because of their age? Who's opinions have been discounted because they were 'too young' or 'inexperienced'? Personally, I've been on the receiving end of a number of comments about being 'too young' throughout my relatively short life. Being a parent at 23?! What was I thinking! Far too young! Right?! Let me put this too you....

Let's say I went to university, graduated at 21, got a job, worked for 4 years, had a committed relationship and then had a baby at 27. Is that acceptable? Yes it is! How about leaving school at 16, working for 3 years, buying my own house, had a committed relationship, worked for another 4 years and had a baby at 23. I was earning more than most of the 23 year olds with degrees. I owned a house and had 7 years working and living as an adult under my belt. Am I any less qualified? Apparently so! Surely my degree from the University of Life counts for something?! It really pisses me off when age is used to undermine, with nothing to back it up other than a date of birth. 

Now take the work place. My work place. The ambulance service is a very strange working environment. There is a bizarre mentality amongst many that the more years of service you have done, the better you are. There is a culture of looking after the 'long timers' and the 'newbies' can deal with it. The relief rota is a case in point. Working 7/10 weekends indefinitely just because you are new if fine for a few years but 3? 4? 5? 6 years? When are you experienced enough to not have to do the shifts that the experienced staff don't want to?!

"68 year old female, chest pain"

I was working with a guy who had done 25 years on ambulances. The shift had been painful. He didn't have the time of day for me because I was a student. At no point did he bother to ask where in my training I was. He opened the days conversation with 'are you one of jumped up Uni medics or one of the Playmobil Paras?'. There is a lot of ambiguity in the service about university students. They are seen as stuck up 'know it alls'. OK, some are but similarly there are 'old hands' or 'dinosaurs' who swagger around with just as much self importance. It's not the training, it's the personality. Difference is I wouldn't call them a derogatory name to their face! This guy was giving me one of two labels regardless of what kind of clinician I was. For the record I was a 'Playmobil Para'. I get this label because my route to becoming a paramedic had a different name for the final exam than what used to be done. Therefor it stands to reason that I will be incompetent, useless, untrustworthy, unknowledgeable and a clinical liability. Right?

The hours past with stories about 'back in the day' and instructions not to do too many jobs in the shift etc. I was mocked for being thorough and told my extensive paperwork was a waste of time. I ignored it. It was the expected treatment for a relatively new student. By relatively new, I mean only 2 years. At 4 shifts a week, 10 jobs a shift, that equates to roughly 4,160 patients. In that time I had done 2 ECG recognition courses, a course in Trauma, plenty of home study, clinical updates, reflective practice and some other work related stuff. Yes I was new, yes I was still keen (still am) and no I didn't tell him what I'd done in my spare time.

We arrived on scene at the patients house and as the 'newbie' I carried all the bags while he followed with his hands in his pockets. The patient looked like crap. Pale, sweating and complaining of central chest pain radiating to her jaw. I did the ECG, looked at it and KNEW it was heart attack. I passed it to my crew mate of 25 years experience.

"Nah, it's just high take off."

A) Normal B) Heart Attack (NOT High Take Off!)
For those not down with ECG terminology, we look for ST segment elevation. I know that means nothing to most of you but all you need to know is high take off and elevation can look similar but are not the same. I explained my reasons why it wasn't high take off and the response I got was:

"You can use all the long words you like, that's high take off."

The reason this was a sticking point was, if it WAS a heart attack, we would be travelling a long way to a Heart Attack Centre and would be late off. It is wasn't, and was just high take off, we'd be going to the nearest A & E and would be off on time. 

"I've been doing this job for 25 years, you're a student, trust me, it's high take off."

"It's elevation, we are going to the HAC, you can call clinical support if you like. The history matches the ECG."

He muttered something under his breath about 'know it alls' with 'no experience' and stomped off to the cab. We drove to the HAC, the waiting cardiologist looked at the ECG and confirmed it was indeed ST elevation and she was indeed having a heart attack. 

Student 1 - 0 25 Years Experience

It made for an awkward journey home. I didn't gloat. I didn't say 'I told you so' but I didn't need to. He just ignored me. The silence was golden. My point isn't that I was great. On a day to day basic his wealth of experience would help him and me in many ways but just because I'm young and new doesn't mean I don't know what I'm doing. He hadn't done any training for years, no continual professional development. Therefor, is 25 years experience just 1 years experience repeated 25 times? I have uppermost respect for people who have done the job for so long but respect still has to be earned. Treating my like an idiot only earned my crewmate disdain. I don't know everything, far far far from it. I'm still learning. I'll always still be learning. The time I don't feel the need to learn more is the time I stop gaining experience.

People should be judged on ability not experience. People should be judged on how how well their children are brought up, not how old the parents are. Experience is relative. It's well known that discriminating against sex, race, religion and sexuality is not acceptable in today's society. Well, age isn't a reason to belittle / dismiss / ignore someone either. To label someone as too young to do something or to have done something, smacks to me as criticism to justify their own choices in life. There is no point in having experience if you've done sod all with it.

Rant over! 

Do I have enough experience ranting to call myself a well rounded ranter or am I too young?


  1. Really agree, and I hope I am never like that old dinosaur. Newly qualified staff (Sadly, I do think of them like that, even if it's been two years since qualification, until the next newbie turns up!) teach me so much. I'll ask them about patients I'm having problems with - and it's then that I sometimes find a strange thing like neural tension tests have changed since I learned them 25 years ago! Sometimes, you don't know that you don't know! Everyone in a department has things to offer and to learn from.

    1. What gets me is i'm still labelled new almost 5 years on yet im a Practice Placement Educator for new students! Hmmmm!

  2. Go go go Ella!! We were married at 20, had two kids by 23, had our own house, worked hard and now at 50+ have grown up children and grandkids while others are still bringing up teens at our age. DON't LISTEN!! do what you're good at because before long, you'll be labelled too old!

    1. Me? Listen?! It appears to conform with society there is only a 7 year window to have all children! <28 Too young and >35 too old! At 41 my boy will be 18! Life DOES begin at 40!

  3. Oh dear! Mentoring is not always easy, but you should never be made to feel as though you are beneath someone. I experienced it with a ward sister (my mentor at the time) and vowed I would never treat a student like she treated people. Trying to be in control could be seen as their inadequacies... YOU as a student learn all the latest things and can put theory into practice, therefore making you a wise person, mentors could also learn from students. My motto in life is NEVER ASSUME!

  4. Urgh, this is a real sticking point for me out volunteering atm. My superior keeps trying to undermine me because he's been qualified for longer, has more experience yaddayaddayadda, but actually he's made some really bum clinical decisions recently (enough for me to raise a concern with higher up people) and it's been put down to me having a "personal" issue with this guy, despite the factual evidence in front of them because "he's more experienced and therefore I should respect his decision". I will not accept a decision that will not benefit, or may even be detrimental to my patient! GRRRRRR.

  5. Really grea blog. I'm so glad someone is making a stand for this. There is too much hate for each other in the ambulance service, even seen someone on twitter saying direct entry paramedics should choke on their own arses and die! I'll be 20 when I qualify as a paramedic and every time someone mentions my age it annoys me. Please do give me constructive critisism but saying I shouldn't be doing it yet ISN'T constructive. Sorry for the mini rant!

  6. If you're good enough you're old enough :-)

  7. High take off does exist... My colleague who I did my first ever ECG on will be pleased to hear that. He's been struggling to find any evidence of it and was getting a bit paranoid...

    Back to the subject: Regularly get people assume that my older colleagues are more experienced than I am because they are older than I am. I then look like a right up-myself twit when I explain that I am more qualified.

  8. Life is one big learning curve .Their life in your hands . I know who I would choose .

  9. I think I may have worked with this guy!:)

  10. I have my qualified patches. I am still learning, and always will be (like you!). Sadly, I also look half a dozen years younger than I am, so get greeted with "Are you one of those bloody uni students?!". Ummm, note the patches? Can't get those when you're still a student!
    My favourite was when I was introduced to everyone as "The Student" by someone I was working with for a few days. This was after I had been qualified for a couple of years. Some times it is not worth the argument (sometimes it is!).

    I just tell myself not to be too judgemental on them, one day I might become one of those grizzly paras.

  11. This is something I faced last year and will do for quite a while, registering as a paramedic aged 20. There isn't a week go by were I'm not told how the uni route is nothing on 5 years in pts. It really did make me question myself at first and made the already huge leap from student to registered para so much harder having to justify your training to colleagues. Speaking to other newly qualified health staff, nursing seems so much more protective of new young, staff, compared to the ambulance mob determined to show up anyone that didn't take the old route to being a para.

  12. Good read as always - thank you!

    I had a different take on the grizzly old git's motives. I thought he was suggesting it wasn't a heart attack so he could get home on time - short trip to A & E and feet up in front of the fire with his paper. I wondered if after all those years he had lost his care for patients. If this young eager whipper snapper student was insisting on doing everything by the book and that meant he'd be late home and his dinner would be dried up in the bottom of the oven.

    I hope that if I ever need a ride in one of your lovely chariots with the tinkly bells on top that he isn't in it as I wouldn't want my ill health to get between him and his sausage and mash!! Or vice versa :-)


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