Nurses Providing Pre-Hospital Care
Andy Thurgood has spent over 15 years with MARS as a BASICS responder. In November 2019 he became a consultant in Pre-hospital Emergency Medicine (PHEM) – the first non-doctor ever to do so! He revisits his journey from 1989 to 2022.
From Paratrooper to Emergency Nurse
Back in 1983, Andy joined the British Army and became a paratrooper. After a few years, he was successful in transferring to the Royal Army Medical Corps and subsequently qualified as an military nurse. He has worked in various roles including a deployment with a British Army field surgical team in Central America. After leaving the HM Forces, his first civilian appointment was as a senior staff nurse in the emergency department at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel.
Andy went on to work in various emergency departments across the West Midlands, and in the mid-1990s was one of a small group of nurses selected from the region to pioneer the MSc in advanced nursing practice at the University of Birmingham. He completed this MSc in 1997, specialising in pre-hospital emergency care.
His growing interest in pre-hospital emergency medicine also led to a volunteer role with the West Midlands Central Accident Resuscitation Emergency (CARE) Team, a charitable organisation that responds to serious medical incidents across the West Midlands in support of the West Midlands Ambulance Service. This is a high performing medical team where Andy is the deputy clinical director.
Other roles in his diverse career portfolio include Medical Director for West Midlands Fire Service, advanced clinical practitioner in emergency medicine at Wolverhampton’s New Cross Hospital, medical director of Resuscitation Services UK Ltd and crowd medical officer for national and international athletic events held in Birmingham.
Getting Accredited as a Level 8 Consultant
Having spent more than three decades nursing in his chosen specialty, Andy’s prehospital achievements were professionally recognised in 2019 when he became the first non-doctor in the UK to be accredited as a level 8 consultant in pre-hospital emergency medicine by the Faculty of Pre-Hospital Care, part of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh.
How Nurses Provide Pre-Hospital Care
While his professional achievements equal those of leading PHEM Doctors, nursing remains at the core of his approach. ‘It’s the defining feature of what I do,’ he says. ‘There have been many battles and disappointments along the way and some still don’t believe there is a place for emergency nurses in pre-hospital care. But as nurses there are so many things we bring to the party. I certainly enjoy the multi-professional approach to patient care and developing others to achieve their career potentials.
Among them is understanding the continuum of care. ‘I know what the patient’s journey will be like, through the emergency department, operating theatre, intensive care and high-dependency units. Having worked in all those areas as a nurse, it provides an invaluable insight into what they may see, that adds a certain dynamic to my patient care.’
Empathy is also key. ‘I joined a caring profession, and whilst a bit of what I do pre-hospital is quite medical in terms of process and procedures, the empathetic side sits as my centre of gravity,’ says Andy.
‘My nursing background expresses itself in many ways in those emergency procedures I undertake roadside. I always aim to make patients feel safe, which is important when they are at their most vulnerable.’
Equipped For Any Incident
MARS paid to equip Andy’s Land Rover Discovery with blue lights and a siren, allowing him to respond safely to those in need of urgent care. Like many other BASICS responders, MARS puts Andy through intensive refresher courses for driving as a blue lights responder. All MARS “Medics” are equipped with medical equipment and drugs to enable their clinical roles in support of the ambulance service. Andy says, ‘We are always incredibly grateful to those who donate to MARS to enable our service to function, without it we would not exist.’