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How Student Paramedic Billy’s Placement with ellenor Has Opened His Eyes to a Whole New World of Care

Billy was barely a teenager when he decided he wanted to be a paramedic.

“I’ve always wanted to go into healthcare,” he explains. “I just couldn’t decide if that would be in nursing, medicine, or paramedicine. Then, when my grandma was quite ill – I was 13 or 14 at time, and choosing my GCSEs – I remember the paramedics coming out to help her. I saw them, and thought, ‘I’d like to do that.’”

Fast word six years, and Billy – now a second-year student paramedic at Greenwich University – is learning the trade, and living out his career goals.

Yet he’s not only getting the chance to learn the principles behind paramedicine – but put those new skills into practice.

Both on the job and – through a placement with ellenor – on the ward, too.

ellenor’s Northfleet-based inpatient ward contains nine beds – all occupied by life-limited patients, many in the final days and weeks of their lives. It’s a palliative care setting – a far cry, on the face of it, from the emergencies and literal ‘do or die’ situations paramedics walk into every night.

But, as Billy explains, the skills and learnings a hospice setting provides dovetail neatly with those required to thrive as a paramedic, too.

“The role of a paramedic is, first and foremost, to preserve life. But it’s also to provide dignified care; to ensure a person’s comfortable and reassured. Basically, it’s trying to leave someone in a better place than they were when you found them.”

“It’s also about just being a person to them. Listening to them. In paramedicine, a lot of our patients aren’t critically unwell – they’re unwell, but they don’t need us to intervene immediately. Which means we can really start to talk to them; to dive deep into all their issues. As paramedics, we need to take the patient’s wider circumstances into consideration, so we can properly help our patients with everything – not just clinically.”

Of course, there are few better places to learn these skills than in a ward where there are almost as many nursing staff as there are patients. Where, for staff, talking to and getting to know the patients is as important as the clinical care. And, where those exact words Billy used – dignified care – aren’t just a way of working. But a mantra to live by.

In fact, ellenor’s ethos of holistic care – that which takes into account the patient’s emotional, social, and psychological needs, alongside the clinical; and treats the person, not only the disease – is a strong match for Billy’s own ideals and worldview.


“For us in paramedicine, ‘holistic’ means not just focusing on the person’s clinical needs, but all their needs. The full person. It’s looking at the broken arm, but also asking why they fell over. Does the house have wonky stairs? It’s taking the individual’s emotional aspects into account, as well. It can be easy to focus on the clinical side alone. But there’s so much more to a person than that.”

Now, ellenor is enabling Billy to add another dimension to his own approach to care through a placement on the ward. It’s all part of a wider plan, on the part of the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) and Greenwich University, to offer that holistic experience to its paramedics: exposing them, as Billy explains, to environments they’d “interact with as paramedics, but wouldn’t know the inner workings of.

“As paramedics, we’ll often refer patients to ellenor. But we don’t really understand what happens from there. We often have to make decisions about patients we see: whether to take them to hospital, or refer them to end-of-life care. Now I have a better idea of what ellenor does, it’ll help me make that decision – so it’s really aiding and improving my practice.”

The big question, then – how’s Billy finding his placement at ellenor so far?

“It’s a lot different to what I thought it was going to be like – in the best way! There are so many misconceptions that a hospice is a morbid place; that it’s carnage, with people dying all the time. Actually, it’s a very calm place; a place of dignity and warmth, where patients are looked after and kept comfortable.

“The amount of work – of love and passion – that goes into caring for each patient is amazing. It’s so much more than I expected.”

During his ellenor placement – which contributes to the 400 hours of practical experience Billy’s second-year study demands – Billy is shadowing ellenor’s teams not only on the ward. But out in the Kent and Bexley communities, as they provide care to patients with life-limiting conditions from their own homes.

“As paramedics in the field, we don’t get to see the full process of care. We only have a small amount of time with these patients. At ellenor, you get that time with the patients – that’s the amazing thing. I’ve seen the care here, the processes – got to know the nurses.

“My placement at ellenor has given me such a different – such a new – view of healthcare. If I hadn’t had this experience, I’d have had a much more naïve view of how hospice and end-of-life-care worked. So this placement is such a valuable thing – and honestly, all students should spend some time on a ward or hospice placement.

They’re insights you’ll never get elsewhere.”