By in Personal

I was almost first on scene!

I guess the one thing all nurses dread is being first on scene at a road traffic accident, or similar incident. The reason for this is that, here in the UK anyway, we are legally obligated to stop and help if we are able. The problem with this is that very few nurses actually work in pre-hospital care and are more than a little out of place without all our equipment we are used to having in our hospital setting.

I had a busy day today involving over four hours of driving taking mum to her two hospital appointments which involved driving down to hers which takes an hour, taking her half an hour to the first hospital then to a shop she needed to go to before driving a little over an hour to the next hospital before driving that hour or so back to drop her back off before heading home, again taking around an hour, nearly five hours behind the wheel!

I was almost home, maybe half an hour away when the traffic coming towards me starts flashing their lights at those of us travelling my direction. I was already frustrated due to the driver in front of me doing less than 40 miles an hour the whole way up the sixty mile an hour road and wondered what they were flashing at. I know the road well, it was unlikely to be speed cops, an accident was far more likely and sure as fate when I turned the corner I seen the sight that all nurses dread, an accident with two police cars on scene but NO ambulance.

If there is an ambulance there it's often best to leave them to it, or at least highly unlikely they will need much help but if there is no ambulance on scene then you become the first medic on scene (the fact that you are a nurse and not actually a medic doesn't seem to matter much) and are in charge of the medical side of things until the ambulance does arrive.

Stopped by the police but still behind the slow car in front I was unable to speak to the police officer right away so I surveyed the scene quickly. There didn't look to be anyone in the car, and it looked to be a one car accident. Both airbags deployed and the front of the car looked almost completely caved in, how anyone got out without being cut out was beyond me but I was glad I wasn't going to have to climb into a dangerous enclosed space to immobilise someone's neck. The police officer indicated we could start moving slowly and I rolled down my window ready to speak to him.

I shouted him over, identified myself as a nurse and asked if there were any injured people. Thankfully he replied that the ambulance team had just left the scene, two walking wounded apparently which is a minor miracle given the mess of the car. He thanked me for stopping and told me I could drive past slowly which I did with my wee heart racing the whole time.

I have never actually had to give aid at an accident scene, although this is the third time it has been a close call and I have only been qualified a year! The first time there were traffic lights out at a four way junction, two cars going in different directions both apparently thought the road was clear and hit full speed somewhere in the middle, again police on scene but no ambulance. I had been qualified a matter of weeks at the time but was driving to work in my uniform (naughty me) so couldn't really hide the fact that I was a qualified nurse, all be it only for a very short time. I pulled over and got out, approached the officer who told me one of the people in the accident was fine but the other had a minor head injury. Thoughts racing, trying desperately to remember the week I spent at uni learning about head injuries I approached the man and found him to have what really could be described as an ouchy on his head, it was a teeny cut he had probably gotten from his wedding ring scraping off his head as the air bag deployed or something similar. I was reasonably happy he was ok, he was reasonably happy he was ok and the police simply asked if there was anything I could do. I told them there wasn't, he should attend hospital for monitoring for signs of concussion but that wasn't something that could be done at the roadside so he told me I could leave and I hopped in my car quicker than I thought possible before he changed his mind.

The second time the accident was much more serious but I was struggling to find somewhere to pull my car over, I didn't want to add to the traffic chaos by stopping dead in the only functioning lane on the main road. By the time the traffic crawled to where there was a side street I could take to pull over two ambulances were screeching to a halt at the scene and I decided I couldn't be any more help than they were so I carried on driving, I did feel guilty for not actually asking if they wanted my help but the severity of the accident had me convinced I wouldn't know what to do anyway.

Being a nurse really is a 24/7 job!

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MegL wrote on September 22, 2016, 4:16 PM

I am glad you didn't have to stop, after driving for 5 hours but on behalf of all drivers thank you for checking.

Kasman wrote on September 22, 2016, 6:15 PM

A heart-pounding moment for sure! When I qualified as a first-aider for my employer I was similarly nervous about actually giving anyone first aid and all my workmates were well warned that if they fell and broke a leg not to come running to me! That was many years ago and I have never been called upon to use my first aid skills at work nor anywhere else.

VinceSummers wrote on September 23, 2016, 12:54 PM

Responsibility is so hard to bear sometimes, even if bear it we must. I sympathize with your concern. Sometimes we feel inadequate for the task at hand.

melody23 wrote on September 23, 2016, 3:17 PM

I was very glad I didn't have to stop, but even more glad everyone got out ok

melody23 wrote on September 23, 2016, 3:20 PM

I was still working in the pub while I was doing my pre-university training at college, during that year I had someone fall nastily in the pub, someone faint while I was at a pipe band competition and someone having a full blown seizure in work! Thankfully, the man with the seizure happened to be the groom of a wedding in which he was marrying a nurse, the room was full of actual real nurses who had an actual clue what to do while I dialled 999. Unfortunately the man and his new bride spent their wedding night in the hospital, but he checked out ok the next day.

melody23 wrote on September 23, 2016, 3:21 PM

Its a scary feeling, knowing you need to help and really wanting to but not being sure if you actually have the skills to do so while everyone else assumes because of your job that you know exactly what you are doing

MegL wrote on September 23, 2016, 4:09 PM

I was watching the UK's "Horizon" program 37 years ago, when they demonstrated a new way of stopping someone from choking. A couple of days later, my 13 month old toddler was eating baby sweets (his granny gave him - not me) when he fell, as toddlers do, sat on his bottom and opened his mouth to yell. Of course he took a deep breath and sucked the sweets into the back of his mouth and started turning blue. Luckily the manoeuvre on the program and few slaps to the back moved the obstruction and he started breathing again! I took a first aid course on behalf of my employers, working in Belfast during the "troubles". Luckily the worst I ever had to patch up were a few slight cuts.

melody23 wrote on September 23, 2016, 5:00 PM

I remember my dad saving my friend who was choking on a piece of apple when we were wee. You must have been terrified, you were clearly meant to watch that show so that you would know what to do.

I honestly think everyone should learn basic first aid, what to do when someone is choking, how to deal with a major bleed and how to preform bystander CPR those types of things. you are something like 80% more likely to survive a cardiac arrest outside hospital if someone starts even poor quality (from a medical point of view) CPR than if no one does anything.

My mother tells some horrible stories of times spent visiting family in Belfast during the troubles, I cannot imagine that it was easy to live and work there during that time.

MegL wrote on September 23, 2016, 5:18 PM

A friend came rushing in a few years ago to say she had been on the phone to someone when they just stopped talking and the phone dropped. The person wasn't far away so we rushed down. My husband broke into the house and the friend and I tcame in to find her friend lying on the floor.. I knew he was dead, it was more than 3 minutes from the phone dropped. We tried CPR until the ambulance arrived but we were too late.

Last Edited: September 23, 2016, 5:19 PM

melody23 wrote on September 23, 2016, 5:27 PM

I am sorry, that must have been a horrible thing to go through. In fairness that is the way most of us would like to go if given the chance to choose, just talking to a friend one minute and gone the next with no idea that was going to happen

MegL wrote on September 23, 2016, 7:09 PM

Yes, that's very true. I had never met him previously, though I had heard of him. It was certainly a quick way to go, problem was, he was only 51.