Fuel, focus and finding balance in the Ambulance Service
It’s probably unsurprising to most that working in the emergency services exposes employees to some pretty demanding and high-pressured environments and experiences. We spoke with Neil, a full-time technician with the Scottish Ambulance Service to find out a bit more about what his day-to-day is like and how he stays on top of his own wellbeing – whilst taking care of that of others.
“I’m based in Edinburgh, responding to 999 emergency calls across the city.” He tells us. “My job involves working 12 hour shifts either during the day or through the night. I work on a set rota so can plan my life around my shifts.” Of course, in those 12 hours almost anything can, and will, happen – the job can be full on (to put it mildly) and it’s often not just a matter of ‘clocking out’. “Dealing with unpredictability and emergency situations can be very intense so it’s important for me to unwind after my shifts – to clear my head. I do this by spending time with my family, playing football, swimming and walking my dog.”
Neil’s line of work offers huge positives, as he’s keen to emphasise. “The best part of my job is the satisfaction of being able to help others at their worst times. I love the diversity of the role and the fact that no day is ever the same – I get to meet and interact with many different members of the public and of course, there’s the excitement of not knowing where my shift will take me.” It certainly puts the reality of your average 9-to-5 into perspective!
Prior to joining the Scottish Ambulance Service, Neil was self-employed and working in the health and fitness industry, so he’s got a good idea of how to keep himself in check mentally and physically. “I worked for many years in the health industry so ‘wellness’ has always been something I believe in and promoted as part of my job. Once you learn good habits, they’re ingrained”.
On his approach to nutrition and staying in a Good Food Mood, Neil has a few little ‘hacks’ that he uses. “I try to eat as healthily as possible whilst on shift. Eating a meal can sometimes be tricky as you just don’t know when a call will come in, so snacking plays a big part of keeping me going. I generally snack on fruit and foods that increase my energy and sugar levels. Oatcakes and oat biscuits are a staple on my go-to list”. Long hours are a big factor in how Neil fuels himself too, especially when those full-on 12 hour shifts are nearing their end. “I need to be focused, so I make sure I eat foods that keep me going throughout.”
That holistic approach to body and mind seems to be fundamental for Neil. “Since joining the Ambulance Service I’ve realised how I need to focus on my own wellness more than ever, allowing me to work shifts and recover well during my days off.”
Nutritionist Fiona Lawson says: Neil certainly has the right attitude. Eating well is a huge part of taking care of ourselves, and it enables us to perform at our best. I’m pleased to hear he snacks on sensible choices like oatcakes and fruit. Fruit is the best sort of fast food: it provides sugar for a quick energy hit, but it also contains lots of fibre, vitamins and minerals. For more sustained energy, he could pair his choice of fruit with some nuts, or even a small pot of Greek yoghurt. Although Neil can’t rely on having time to eat properly during his shift, he should prioritise having a hearty meal before he starts. A good balance of protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats—such as eggs on sourdough toast, or a warming bowl of porridge sprinkled with seeds—will set him up for a demanding day.