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Your path in research: A Greater Manchester paramedic's journey


A Greater Manchester paramedic says he is proud to be part of clinical research after getting involved with a study for the first time. 

Szymon Palac is one of the leading recruiters to the PRESTO Study being delivered by North West Ambulance Service NHS Trust (NWAS). 

PRESTO is assessing whether future patients who call 999 with chest pain can be safely assessed and managed by paramedics, without having to go to hospital.

The study is being led by the University of Manchester and Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust (MFT) with funding from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR)

Szymon is enjoying delivering PRESTO and takes a lot of satisfaction from developing himself professionally and working towards achieving improved outcomes for patients. 

He is backing the NIHR’s new Your path in research campaign encouraging health professionals to consider a career in research.

Szymon, who was presented with an award for his excellent recruitment record during NWAS’ Bitesize research seminar held in collaboration with NIHR Clinical Research Network Greater Manchester, said: “I feel happy in my work because I am part of something that is trying to find solutions. I am proud to be part of research and I think if you have got the opportunity to be part of research, then why not? 

“Because at the end of this study, it is changing something – maybe not straightaway, but things will be learned. Maybe one day when I am older, I can tell my family ‘I was part of research that brought important changes to emergency care’.”

Covering the Salford borough, Szymon has been with NWAS for two-and-a-half years since he moved to Greater Manchester from Poland. 

The 27-year-old lives in Greater Manchester with his wife and young son. He has been a paramedic since 2014 following his graduation with a degree in emergency medicine and a Masters in public health. 

Along with all NWAS paramedics in GM, Szymon was given the opportunity to deliver PRESTO. Involvement is optional, but Szymon was keen to complete the face-to-face training earlier in 2019 and equip himself with the skills to recruit patients.  

He said: “I like to improve my knowledge, update my skills and follow new opportunities. So I wanted to attend the training and see what it had to offer. 

“I think if you are in this job, then you care about patient care and you should want to develop your skills and do that little bit more. I have only been in this career for five years, so I think I always need to be trying to get better.”

Chest pain is the second most common reason why people call 999 for an ambulance. However, the symptoms associated with a heart attack and those of non-cardiac conditions are often similar. Patients with these symptoms are routinely taken to A&E for tests, although ultimately most do not have a health problem that needs treatment in a hospital.

The PRESTO study aims to see if the NHS can safely avoid many of these unnecessary hospital attendances by managing the patient using alternative pathways. 

Szymon says that recruiting a patient to the study is a straightforward process which does not demand an unmanageable amount of training or time for a paramedic whose day-to-day role is already very busy. 

He added: “We take the blood sample from a patient by putting a cannula in, so it is nice to improve your cannulation skills and also take some samples for PRESTO.  

“It is understandable that paramedics may say ‘we’re busy and it’s one more thing to do’, but it (recruitment) is only in the cases where the patient meets the inclusion criteria – and of course the patient has a choice to say yes or no. 

“In our job, we always ask patients with chest pain about cardiac problems and family history. These questions relate directly to PRESTO, so this research study fits naturally with my job. With the forms, it is maybe 10 minutes more work, but it is definitely worth it.

“No matter what your role is, I think all health professionals should have a look into research. Check how you feel about it and ask whether it is something you would enjoy. 

“It is a very rewarding experience. In the next 10 to 20 years, medicine and care is going to change more and more, so why not be part of this?”

For information about how you can follow a career in research, click here to read about the NIHR’s Your path in research” campaign. 

More information about the PRESTO study can be found here and more details about the Research & Development department within North West Ambulance Service NHS Trust can be found here