My friend and colleague, the paramedic, stood outside my door and I could instantly tell that he was not alright.

He is a big fella, but he looked pale and sweaty. No, I’m not going to tell you why, but suffice to say he had just returned from a blue light call to a blue light situation. For him, what he saw, brought stuff back, and as he sat down and made him a coffee, I could tell he was stunned and shaken. There were tears and incomprehension.

As he chatted, or as we sat in silence (because I didn’t have anything useful to say) he gradually worked through it. And then his boss appeared, and supported him as well – telling him that after seeing me he could go back to base and have a debrief.

I suppose what struck me about this incident was the effect that doing a job like that has on someone’s emotional, psychological and spiritual life.

Time together is what binds us

Some of the things that colleagues see are situations which we are never likely to encounter. How often have we seen an ambulance on the road and never given a thought to where it is going and what the crew might face?

When you are working with people in their deepest need then the things that you see affect you. And this goes for many of my colleagues: the 20-year-old student nurse who sees someone die for the first time; the nurse who has built up a relationship with a patient over many years, finding out that they have died; the palliative care team seeing the way someone’s illness and death has on the rest of the family.

The emotions of others in deep distress are sticky; and fragments of them stick to us too. This is the human condition; to have any compassionate human relationship requires risk and may result in sadness as well as deep joy.

So it’s a reminder to me to be on the lookout for staff who might have seen something which causes them distress, and to make time for them.

And it’s a reminder for us all to not take for granted the amazing jobs that people do on our behalf.