Emergency Medical Dispatcher Claudette McNaughton

Emergency medical dispatcher, Claudette McNaughtonAs an emergency medical dispatcher, I’m the first point of contact for people phoning 999. My job is to take the details and organise help for them as quickly as possible. I work 12-hour shifts and will work days and nights, on weekdays and at weekends on a rota basis.

I joined the London Ambulance Service as a call handler 22 years ago after working in the control room for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA).

When you join the Service as an emergency medical dispatcher you complete a call handling training course. You don’t start answering 999 calls until you have completed your training and have passed the assessments. The course includes a mixture of classroom theory, putting the theory in to practice and observational shifts in the control room.

Once you finish your training, and after approximately six months of call handling, you go back to the training centre to learn how to dispatch ambulances.

At the end of your first year, you are able to answer emergency calls and also dispatch ambulances to incidents. You have to be able to do both aspects of the job but most people find they prefer doing one to the other.

I mainly work in the call handling section of the control room answering emergency calls from members of the public, the police, London Underground staff, GPs and the London Fire Brigade. When you answer a call you never know what type of incident you are going to be dealing with - it could be anything from a major road traffic collision to someone with back ache.

I am responsible for making sure that I can get as much detail as possible from the caller so that ambulance crews know what’s wrong with the patient and can give them the best treatment.

Call handling can be stressful and it is a busy job, but it is also very rewarding. Often I am the first person someone talks to when they are in an emergency situation and need help, this is a big responsibility but I enjoy the challenge.

As an emergency medical dispatcher you get a lot of job satisfaction - knowing that you have helped to save a person’s life or helped deliver a baby over the phone is a great feeling.