EMS Voices: Neil White

EMS Voices is a casual look at some of the men and women who serve on our industry's front lines.


EMS Voices is a casual look at some of the men and women who serve on our industry's front lines.

Ask Northumberland paramedic Neil White about EMS in the U.K., and you’ll hear how different it is on the other side of “the pond.”

Except the way they treat FNGs (Freakin’ New Guys).

“One of the first calls I remember as a student was a cardiac arrest,” White mentioned during an intercontinental interview. “We couldn’t gain access to the property; the doors were locked. As the student, I was ‘volunteered’ by my mentor to climb through the kitchen window. I was halfway through when he gave me a push I really didn’t need. I landed in the sink.

“Being shoved headfirst through a window isn’t nearly as dramatic as kicking down a door, like they do on TV.”

White, who’ll have his Bsc in Emergency Care Practice by the time you read this, helps cover a rural area two hours southeast of Edinburgh and five hours northwest of London. The nearest ED is 90 minutes away. It’s an ideal location for what the U.K. calls a community paramedic.

“Our aim is to provide more treatment prehospitally and avoid hospital admission when possible,” the 26-year-old West Lilburn resident says. “I assist general practitioners (MDs) with home visits. We have the time for more detailed physical assessments, and follow up with patients we’ve treated previously.”

White also responds to emergencies, but he acknowledges major differences in paramedic-level practice between the U.K. and the U.S.

“Although we act autonomously here, without rigid standing orders or medical direction, the technical skills of U.S. paramedics are far superior to ours. Despite that, I think medics in both countries face similar issues at street level.”

Like what, for example?

“We spend the majority of our time dealing with the consequences of modern medicine: chronic, long-term illnesses. If we could bring more routine treatment to the patient’s side—antibiotics, simple wound closure, oral pain killers—we could reduce demand for transports and emergency rooms.” Neil concedes, “We’d have to increase our knowledge base and educational standards to meet that challenge.”

White encourages paramedics to “take responsibility for our profession, and move in a direction we can all be proud of.”

A direction beginning with open doors, he hopes.

Mike Rubin, BS, NREMT-P is a paramedic in Nashville, TN, and a member of EMS World’s editorial advisory board. Contact him at mgr22@prodigy.net.