Junior Paramedics, TV review: Rookies get a dose of reality in an eye-opening documentary


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The Independent Culture

I don't mean to alarm you, but should you find yourself in need of emergency medical treatment, the ambulance that comes to your rescue may be staffed by a bright-eyed, bubbly 19-year-old, like Lucy in Junior Paramedics. It's her first time away from home and she can't even work the washer-dryer in her student halls, so how's she gonna get the hang of a defibrillator?

Lucy was one of nine trainee paramedics in BBC3's new series, which took the format of the popular Tough Young Teachers – rookies in a challenging new job – and upped the stakes. These Northampton University students had just six weeks' classroom training before being sent out on the road with the East Midlands Ambulance Service to treat real members of the public. With a matter of minutes to diagnose, prioritise and then initiate treatment, it really is life or death.

Who will stay the course? And who will puke at first the sight of blood? The voiceover narration had assigned the student's personality types, making it easier to hazard a guess. Max (Breakfast Club equivalent: the jock) brought surprising tenderness to bear when treating a five-month-old baby and girly girl Amy (Breakfast Club equivalent: the princess) was unnerved when her mentor asked her to shave the chest of an elderly patient.

Bryn and Nick, might have been up to any manner of interesting things, but since they were indistinguishable in looks and personality, it was hard to be sure who did what (joint Breakfast Club equivalent: the nerd).

Oddly, it was the youngest of the bunch, 18-year-old Steph, who inspired the most confidence. After only a few days on placement she arrived at the scene of a horrific car crash with multiple casualties. It was enough to stop an experienced medic dead in their tracks, but calm, competent Steph jumped straight in and made herself useful.