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Ambulance: Carol Furber case study – win!

Written by RSS Poster Jerome Mowat

A few months ago I entered the Carol Furber case study competition hosted by the College of Paramedics, the professional body of the UK ambulance service in the UK. It's an excellent organisation that represents and campaigns for the profession. It also runs many extra-cirricular training sessions for ambulance techs, paramedics and students. The case study was limited to 1000 words, and other than the need for it to be reflective, the criteria was relaxed. I entered because I thought I might learn something in the process – for all five placements we go on this year we need to provide a reflection anyway, I could possibly kill two birds with one stone. The deadline was 1700hrs, New Year's Eve. Twenty minutes before, I was still glaring at it, discontent with the product of what was probably a week's solid work, but relieved the ordeal was over. A few months later, the case study had receded to a neglected, dusty shelf somewhere in the vault of my memory. I still took it down and blew on the cover from time to time, wandering...

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Ambulance: Abuse at Winterbourne View

Written by RSS Poster Jerome Mowat

It was the first Monday back after three weeks of driving. The mood was boisterous, mainly because  university was a welcome relief. We were tired of Bethleham and tired of the monotony of driving. Exciting at times, it could also be, well, a bit boring. It was after the third time I had fallen asleep in three days (as a passenger, promise) that I got ‘the talk’ from Klippity Klop on taking the course seriously. For some inexplicable reason, in the most unlikely setting of the station car park, in the unlikely dress of my green ambulance service uniform, I felt like a street urchin being cautioned by the factory boss. If I had a cap I would’ve doffed it and in my best cockney accent said ‘sorry guvn’r, it won’t ‘appen again’.

Eased in gently we were not. Instead we got Health and People with Learning Difficulties. By now we were accustomed to our lecturer Pater Woolworth, a specialist nurse on mental health and learning difficulties. a little on the scatty side of organised, he sometimes turned up unprepared and, er delayed,...

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Ambulance: My first blue light run...

Written by RSS Poster Jerome Mowat

…lasted a gripping three seconds. We went all of about fifteen yards, maybe twenty. In the middle of the driving course, our DTU was summoned to Greygobble university to stand in for some promotional shots for the course, or so we were told. The closer we got to the time, the more the expectations of us were increased. Klippity was on the phone to our lecturer, Master Limehouse: ‘what’s that? A scenario? You want them to carry out a scenario? Which will be filmed?’ I exchanged looks with Derek and Cruella, our eyes bulging collectively. My heart started pounding. So what if I had been studying for six months – the crucial word being studying – I knew nothing, and I openly admitted it. My main excuse however was that we’d been driving for the last two weeks, and jumping straight into clinical was too much. Klippity hung up – ‘sounds like they want you to do a scenario with some of the second and third years’. He failed to suppress a laugh that said more than words could. It was a ‘rather you than me’ tone with the...

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Ambulance: Emergency driving course: the final appraisal

Written by RSS Poster Jerome Mowat

It was the third time we were driving round the block. The reason? I had failed to park in the way Klippity wanted to me to park. I drove around sheepishly, conscious of the stare I was getting from pedestrians who had just seen the same ambulance drive past three times. ‘It’s not me it’s him’ I felt like shouting out of the window. Instead I took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, imagining the stress drop away – a personal technique I’ve developed for dealing with situations such as this one.


The house, number 88, was coming up on our right. Derek called out the numbers on the right: ‘22…34…54…62’. I snapped: ‘Yes thanks Derek, I can see the numbers quite clearly’. The voice that spoke was too polite, overcompensating for the tension I felt. It sounded like exasperation. I hoped Klippity didn’t pick up on it but knowing him he probably knew what I was going to say before I did.

I stopped well before the house, took another deep breath, and proceeded slowly. Just before the drive I turned the...

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Ambulance: Emergency driving course: feeling the pressure

Written by RSS Poster Jerome Mowat

At the beginning of each day we get issued a route plan, no more than a sheet of paper with a list of place and road names. Before the first drive of the day we plot it on the road atlas. It’s the duty of those in the back to keep the vehicle on course, giving directions as we come to them. There’s an old school feel to our drives, thundering down country lanes with directions being shouted from the back. Faces close to the map, eyes frantic, flicking desperately between the four pages the route always seemed to be split between. Navigating could be a joyless task, but on the whole Klippity was impressed with our team: ‘you’re driving may be poor, but at least you can read a map’. We learned that as long as you said the directions with confidence, even if you were lost it was possible to get away with it. Whenever we did it was generally when Derek and I were navigating. ‘Got that drive?’ was always Klippity’s question to the driver after receiving directions. ‘Remember you need to confirm all this...

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Ambulance: Emergency driving course: when things go wrong

Written by RSS Poster Jerome Mowat

Yesterday hadn’t gone so well. I’d suffered from the chronic condition with acute episodes known as boredom. Boredom lead to lack of concentration, which lead to stupid errors in my driving. Twos and threes littered the offending page on my daily driving record, accompanied by a less than glowing report punctuated with exclamation marks. Today was a demanding drive to Bexleytail on the coast, taking in some fast country lanes. We were expected to ‘make progress’ on these roads, which basically means drive as if you were on blue lights. ‘Comon, happy signs ahead, woof and we’re away’ Klippity would say with a wave of his hand as if pushing the DTU onwards. ‘Happy signs’ were Klippity’s name for national speed limit signs. He was say the same thing whenever they came into view, it became a mantra which we would repeat every time we saw them.

Cruella, Derek and I had done our VDI [vehicle daily inspection] which was also marked and, believe me, Klippity was thorough. He strode up to the vehicle –...

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Ambulance: Emergency driving course: night drive (II)

Written by RSS Poster Jerome Mowat

It was dark, but the moon had been waning for just one day and was full. The sky was clear and shadows were cast by the haunting brightness. There was a strangeness to the night: somehow it was frozen in that moment when a rim of the sun’s glow is present on the horizon. My optic centre thought it was early morning; my suprachiasmatic nucleus told it not to be ridiculous, it was quarter past midnight. ‘It’s like dawn coming over the horizon. I knew Dawn, lovely girl’ Klippity joked.

The other three did well in their drives, and we soon found ourselves rolling through the quite streets of Pinchfoot playing spot the other DTUs [driver training units]. Our objective was Ken’s kebabs. No-one including the DIs know quite why we go there. ‘I had a kebab there last year. Oh dear’ was Klippity’s brief review of the place, which didn’t stop him from having another this time. But first, I had a mission to complete. I slipped into the Spar on the way to Ken’s, and self-consciously pulled a bottle of wine from...

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Ambulance: Emergency driving course: night drive (I)

Written by RSS Poster Jerome Mowat


Despite it being late in the day, cohort 09/11 was wired. There were enthusiastic greetings all round, as if the extra ten hours spent apart had been ten weeks. We had known about this aspect of the driving course from the very beginning, when Geoffrey Hot-Eyre gave us our introductory speech. In my mind it had assumed an importance beyond that of a drive in the absence of light, which, when it comes do it, is what it is. In my mind it was less an aspect of our training than an initiation, a ritual removed from its purpose which was to improve our driving.

If anyone from the outside had walked into Bethleham on the eve of our night drive they could’ve been excused for mistaking it for a lunatic asylum. Students were flicking through traffic signs, feverishly reciting their full and correct meaning like some Highway Agency issued mantra. It was with impressive alacrity that Kermit and others were reeling off sign after sign in preparation for the test at 1800. At our desks, Klippity Klop issued our papers. ‘Had enough...

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Ambulance: Emergency driving course: the skid pan

Written by RSS Poster Jerome Mowat



The city is an uncanny place before the sun has risen in the morning. I cycle the same streets to get to Bethleham, the cohort’s promised land of paramedic knowledge, but these are not the same streets as the previous afternoon. I think they slumber during the day to numb the pounding they receive from foot and tyre, awakening at night under the unholy orange glow emitted from street lamps. Few bear witness to their stare: delivery drivers; shift workers; the more sober night-clubbers. Fewer are awake enough to feel it.. They goggle silently, ambivalent to the little human’s pressing matters. As the darkness subsided back into the west, the streets give a yawn and bed down for another day of ritualistic pounding. No? I’m on my own then.


I was more than wide awake cycling through the darkness on a cold March morning, and I felt the stare from every crack and corner. They might not have cared that I was on my way to the skid pan, but I did. A day that had been marked in the cohort’s dairy since day one when Geoffrey...

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Ambulance: Emergency driving course: week 1

Written by RSS Poster Jerome Mowat

Brake brake brake BRAKE BRAKE BRAKE! We were hurtling down the wonderful writhing country lanes found in this part of the country on an overcast Friday afternoon. The closer I got to each corner, the more urgent Klippity’s appeals became. It was a Pavlovian response, spurred by the very human desire for self-preservation. He had to say it on more than one occasion. That, together with ‘you’re speeding up. Why are you speeding up in the corner?’ Became the mantra for the day. The relentless criticism was putting me on edge, and my whole body was vibrating with a nervous, jittery energy. Or was that the engine, I’m not sure. On he other side of the coin, Klippity was telling me we weren’t to be overtaken by Günter Godspeed, who was at the wheel of the ambulance hot on our tail. ‘He is not to overtake you, is that clear?’ I had to perform one or two ‘accidental’ sideways deviations to ensure success. ‘They’re going to be able to see every time you brake, every position you take on the road, don’t mess it...

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Latest Jerome Mowat Stories

Carol Furber case study – win!
Abuse at Winterbourne View
My first blue light run...
Emergency driving course: the final appraisal
Emergency driving course: feeling the pressure

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