Published: 11 January 2018

A day in the life of a student paramedic

Final year BSc Paramedic Science student Holly Adcock describes a typically busy and exciting day and night shift on placement with the South East Coast Ambulance Service.

Surrey’s three-year BSc Paramedic Science degree is divided equally between academic study and practical experience, and includes practice placements within the South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust or other local NHS Trusts.

Holly, who is the Events Coordinator for the University of Surrey Paramedic Society and a student ambassador for the Widening Participation and Outreach Department, shares insights from her time on placement.

The day shift

Holly describes what happens during a typical day shift on the ambulance team:

  • 4am - Get up, breakfast, shower and prepare for shift
  • 4:50am - Leave the house and drive to the ambulance station
  • 5:40am - Arrive at station. Transfer the medicines from the cupboard to the drugs bag, and check the rest of the ambulance to ensure all kit is present and in working order
  • 6am - The start of our shift. Sign on with control. Get sent a job through straight away to the screen in our ambulance: 66-year-old male having a heart attack who needed a blue light transfer from a local hospital to St George’s coronary unit in London
  • 7:50am - 10-year-old male who collapsed at school. We assessed and conveyed him to hospital
  • 9:10am - 37-year-old female who had had an ear infection and dizziness for 2 weeks. We spoke to her GP and booked her an appointment for that afternoon. Patient left at home
  • 10:40am - Time to refuel the ambulance and grab a coffee from the petrol station
  • 10:50am - 56-year-old female who had attempted to commit suicide. We liaised with her and the police. Due to concerns for her welfare and her lack in mental capacity, she was conveyed to hospital
  • 1:30pm - Return to base for 30-minute meal break
  • 2:10pm - 93-year-old female who has double dosed on her regular medications. We assessed her and spoke to our paramedic practitioners on our clinical desk, who advised us to call patient’s GP. GP happy for patient to stay at home
  • 3:45pm - Sent to a roadside cover point. Looked through my portfolio and got my mentor to sign off some skills write-ups
  • 4:10pm - Called to a prison for a 69-year-old gentleman with a high heart rate and a low blood pressure. The patient was assessed and had sepsis, so he was transferred under blue lights to hospital
  • 6:10pm - Just finished our last job, so we drove back to our ambulance station
  • 6:45pm - Arrive back at station. We didn’t finish with our last patient until 45 minutes past the end of our shift time. Made sure the ambulance was clean and tidy, and put the medicines back in the cupboard. Drive home
  • 7pm - Get home, have some dinner, talk to housemates and relax. Go to bed, ready to do it all again the next morning.

View our Paramedic Science photo gallery to see photos of our students training.

The night shift

Holly describes what happens during a typical night shift on the ambulance team:

  • 4:30pm - Have dinner and make food for the shift ahead
  • 5:45pm - Leave the house and drive to the ambulance station
  • 6:35pm - Arrive at the ambulance station, check the vehicle and get the drugs bag ready
  • 7pm - The start of our shift, sign on with control. We’re in a car instead of an ambulance
  • 7:20pm - 84-year-old female, coughing up blood. Her observations (blood pressure etc) were abnormal. We requested back up from an ambulance and they transferred her to hospital
  • 8:15pm - We are sent to a roadside cover point. On our way, we came across a road traffic collision involving two cars. We assessed all three patients and requested ambulance back up to transfer one of them to hospital due to her very high blood pressure
  • 9:40pm - 87-year-old lady fallen, with a head injury. The head injury needed treatment in hospital so we requested back up for an ambulance to transfer her to hospital. It was a very busy night for the ambulance service, so we waited three and a half hours for the ambulance
  • 1:15am - 24-year-old autistic male, in his boyfriend’s car, very distressed. He was so anxious he had lost his voice and was shaking uncontrollably. We spent time talking to him and providing reassurance and eventually he began to talk to us. We all decided it would be best for him to attend A&E to get the support he needed
  • 2:40am - Just enough time to grab a well-needed coffee from the petrol station
  • 2:50am - 67-year-old female with one sided facial and arm weakness. She was displaying stroke symptoms, so we requested ambulance back up to take her to hospital
  • 3:45am - We head back to the nearest ambulance station for a 30-minute break
  • 4:30am - 50-year-old male in excruciating pain due to kidney stones. We assessed him, gave him some strong painkillers and conveyed him to hospital
  • 6:15am - 4-year-old female who had tonsillitis and was distressed. She was on her second day of antibiotics. We calmed her down and advised the grandparents to give the next dose of Calpol. We provided care advice and left her at home
  • 7:10am - Arrive back at station (only 10 minutes late!) and restock and tidy the ambulance. Drive home as the sun rises and everyone is heading off to their day at work
  • 8:20am - Get home, go to bed, ready for the next shift that evening.


Discover more about our BSc Paramedic Science degree and read about Holly's student experience at Surrey.

Share what you've read?