Emma Campbell: Working as an ambulance officer during a pandemic
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Emma Campbell has been in the ambulance service since she was 18 years old. Working as an ambulance officer on the front line throughout the pandemic has come with its fair share of challenges. In the words of her sister, “she is having to deal with the stress of work, transferring COVID patients, dealing with worried families, saving lives, dealing with loss and trauma – just to support Aotearoa. I think she’s pretty incredible alright!”

We spoke to Emma to hear about the sacrifices she’s made to look after Tāmaki Makaurau during the pandemic.

On top of all the usual incidents Emma attends to, this COVID-19 outbreak has added a whole other layer of stress. “It’s been so tough, particularly putting on full body PPE suits to go into people’s don’t know what you’re walking into.”

Dealing with the fear people have around hospitals where there are reported COVID cases is another thing Emma and her colleagues have been grappling with. “It’s been challenging trying to reassure them they will be safe to go, but sometimes people just refuse. It’s frightening that we’re leaving people at home who could go downhill, but you can’t force people to go.”

Despite all these daily challenges, perhaps the hardest thing for Emma has been the separation from her family at a time when she needs them the most. "My son, mum and dad and siblings all live in Hamilton so during the lockdown in Auckland I wasn’t able to see them. It’s been very hard being away from them and not having that support network close by.”

Emma says ambulance staff are tired and morale is low. “We’re trying to stick together and be supportive, but people are emotional. Everyone’s had enough.”
“We have our own anxieties about the situation, but we have to put our stuff to one side to be there for others.” To help her cope, Emma focuses on how she’s helping people get through their struggles, which gives her a feel-good boost.
Talking is also a key coping strategy for Emma: “I find talking to my family helps when I’m struggling, and colleagues too. The staff I work with are supportive, and we help each other out a lot with chats.”

Emma has recently taken a break from her job to spend some time with her family and look after her mental health after working through what has been an extremely tough 18 months.

We want to say a big thank you to Emma and all the other paramedics and healthcare workers out there doing their best for their community through the pandemic and always – we really appreciate everything you do!