Devon Air Ambulance has recently taken on a further seven new paramedics.

We asked Josh Barker to tell us about his journey from childhood ambition to boarding Devon's Air Ambulances as a Trainee Specialist Paramedic in Critical Care.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

Initially I wanted to join the Police as I'd always had an interest in public service and wanted a job that was a bit different from one day to the next. It wasn't until I started choosing my A levels that I really considered becoming a paramedic.

When did you know you wanted to become a paramedic?

Growing up I had been involved in a number of medical incidents with members of the public. I found these experiences very rewarding from administering what was at the time basic first aid, liaising with the 999 services, co-ordinating others on the scene and calming family members, whats more, I was actually good at it.

It was these experiences and the advice from my parents to "pick a career that you will love doing every day and everything else will sort its' self out" that helped me to realise I wanted to be a paramedic.

Can you describe your career journey to DAA?

Knowing I wanted to study paramedic science at university I picked A-Levels that would help me. These were A-levels in Biology, Psychology and Health & Social Care, before completing an FdSc in Paramedic Science at Bournemouth University.

After qualifying I started working in rural areas of West Dorset for SWASFT - South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust. During that time I worked very hard to improve myself clinically and professionally. I have mentored a number of paramedic students, and was part of a number of service improvement projects. Having worked in Dorset for three years I applied for the trainee specialist paramedic position with DAA and was fortunate enough to be selected to join the team.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your work?

There are so many rewarding aspects to my job, but if I had to pick one specific feature it would be being the first contact to help relieve a person's pain.

We go to people on what can be the worst day of their lives and I feel very privileged to be the first person, or part of the first team of people, to be involved with their care.

When we arrive the patient can be in a significant amount of pain. One of the most rewarding parts of the job is seeing the relief on a patient's face when we give them some good analgesia, and having them leave our care in a more comfortable state than when we found them.

What are the most challenging aspects of your role?

Sometimes there isn't a happy ending and patients may not survive their injuries or illness. One of the most difficult aspects of my job is breaking this news to loved ones and trying to support them through the shock of losing a loved one.

What are you most looking forward to about working with DAA?

I am looking forward to the continuous learning I will get through the position. Devon Air Ambulance has an incredible training program and so many highly skilled clinicians working for them. I can't wait to start working and learning alongside them.

Which three qualities are required of a paramedic?

  • Hardworking
  • A desire to learn and improve
  • Confidence

Paramedics need to work hard; sometimes, on a land ambulance, you will go a full 12 hours shift without a break. It can be an intense job and you need to be willing to dig deep. You also need a keen desire to learn: every day is a school day and you have to be willing to put in the effort to develop yourself.

Finally, confidence is essential. Paramedics will sometimes be the senior and only clinician on a scene with many people will be looking to us for direction. You need to have the confidence to lead teams and the self confidence to make decisions.

What advice would you give to young people looking to follow in your footsteps?

My advice would be to start volunteering, it doesn't have to be in a healthcare environment, but it should be in a social one. When I was in school I volunteered at both a care home and a hospice and with St John Ambulance.

One of the most important things in healthcare is to be able to talk to people and this is an important life skill young people need. Volunteering opens you up to groups of people you might otherwise not meet; it shows an ability to operate outside your comfort zone and will help to establish valuable life experience that is often a barrier to younger people wanting to begin careers in healthcare.

We are proud to be an charity that is independent of government funding. 100% of our funds come from our fundraisers and supporters. This means we are very much a charity that is by and for the people of Devon. There are many ways to help keep your air ambulances flying, from fundraising, lending us your time as a volunteer, becoming one of our corporate supporters, remembering us in your will or becoming a lottery player.