I’ve had a few suggestions on my last post, and am going to be answering your questions one by one. First up, Miranda asked how one becomes a Nee Naw Worker.

Like with most other jobs, the process started with a bog standard applications form with all the usual questions about how many GCSEs you have and why you want to work for the Nee Naw Service. The LAS recruitment page is fairly non-specific about who can and can’t apply. As far as I know, there are no minimum qualifications (so I needn’t have bothered with that Master’s degree) and no specific experience you need, though I seem to recall that any kind of medical experience like medical coding or health care administration (I worked in a GP surgery for two years and in various very boring medical admin jobs) and any kind of telephone working (I used to work in IT support) were seen as an advantage.

Though there are no formal prerequisites, the following will (in my opinion, which in no way reflects the opinion of the Nee Naw Service) make you a lot more suited to the job:

  • Basic medical knowledge.
  • Experience working with impatient, abusive drunks. Try a stint at McDonalds at pub closing time and imagine getting a Big Mac in 8 minutes is a life and death matter.
  • Experience working with elderly people.
  • Local knowledge. This is particularly important in London where a lot of foreign residents don’t seem to know the name of the area in which they live or how to spell/pronounce it.
  • Ability to get up at 5am or earlier with absolutely no room for lateness. Willingness to sacrifice weekends, social life, Christmas and the feeling of being completely awake for the forseeable future.
  • A heart of steel. If you cry at Casualty, this job is not for you. Being compassionate is important, but not nearly as important as being able to take charge of a harrowing situation. If someone’s baby is not breathing, they don’t need your compassion, they need you to behave like this is a problem that can be solved.
  • A thick skin. People can and will call you bad names on a daily basis. And that’s just management, hahaha.
  • It also helps if you look good in green. Not many people do.

My application form was (obviously) successful and I was invited back to the Training Department in Bow to do some tests with other Nee Naw Control hopefuls. These were:

  • Dictation. Someone read out a paragraph about ambulances and the Nee Naw Service and you had to write it down without making any spelling mistakes. This was pretty easy and there wasn’t any complicated medical terminology in it. In my opinion they should make this a bit harder because there are plenty of people in Control who spell “vomiting” with two Ts and make a complete hash of “diarrhoea” and it absolutely drives me up the wall.
  • Logical reasoning. Lots of questions a bit like this where you have to read a passage and then say if various statements are true based on the information in the passage. I guess this is because we spend a lot time trying to squeeze information out of callers who are talking a lot of nonsense.
  • Digit recall. This is the one that I thought I’d failed on. I can’t remember exactly how it worked, other than lots of numbers were read out and you had to look at a sheet and pick out the sequence you had just heard, or something like that. This sort of thing confuses me easily but it is necessary because you spend a lot of time writing down phone numbers, call signs, fleet numbers etc and you can’t go getting them muddled. I was lucky to scrape through on this one; even now I get my numbers mixed up and call L104 L401 and suchlike.
  • Typing. You don’t have to be any great typist but they do measure your typing speed to make sure you’re not jabbing away one fingered as when you are call taking you need to be able to type fast to get the details up to dispatch. This was a breeze for me as with all the rubbish admin jobs and the amount of time spent on the internet I have a typing speed of 70wpm.

A couple of days after the tests, I had to make a nerve-wracking phone call to LAS recruitment from the toilets of the hospital I was working in. Much to my surprise, they told me I’d passed, even the digit test, and I was invited back for the interview proper.

I have to say it was the worst interview of my entire life. Most of the interviews I’d been to in the past went on the lines of “Do you know how to switch the computer on? Well done, you’re hired!” but this was an excrutiating affair that went on for hours. I prefer the sort of questions which you could answer from the top of your head eg. “What would you do if such and such happened…” or “Why do you like ambulances?” but there weren’t any of those, just lots of “Give us an example of when you were in a situation where [something happened]. Tell us about it and how you dealt with it.” One question was “… when someone interrupted a task you were doing to ask you to do something else” and the only example I could think of was something very lame about “I was fixing a computer then someone else asked me to, er, fix their computer and I said the first computer would have to wait because the second one was used for accessing patient records in A+E whereas the first belongs to a secretary”. I didn’t really have much relevant experience so I was plucking examples from university and rubbish temp jobs that had only lasted a couple of weeks. There was also a long lecture about uniform and sickness and how the service is very strict on these. I came over all paranoid and thought they’d been talking to my then-boss, who was constantly chastising me for late arrival and lamenting the fact I’d just had a week off with a wisdom tooth related malady. This wasn’t the case, they say that to everyone.

I don’t know if the interview went better than I thought or if they were just desperate for employees, but I got through, and here I am.

Later, in part 2: Training School!

Published Sep 18, 2006 - 17 Comments and counting

17 Comments on “How To Become A Nee Naw Controller (Part 1)”
  1. Rob Says:

    Brilliant suggestion Miranda and very well put together Mr Myers.

    Looking forward to the second part.

    I could never do most medical jobs because of needles. I’ve got a real issue with them. I’ll stick to my dull same day different t-shirt IT job thanks. It leaves me plenty of time to read blogs like yours.

    Keep up the great work!

  2. Mark Myers Says:

    We don’t have to see any needles in the control room ;) I want to go out on the road one day, though, and I’ll have to deal with needles then. I’m not phobic or anything but I certainly don’t like them much. So last time I had a blood test I forced myself to look! It’s preparation.

  3. Rob Says:

    I have to take the wife when I go to give blood and have to look away. I jabber incessently whilst I’m drained for my donation so I don’t think about it.

    Don’t know where or when it started but it’s about the only thing I have issues with other than anything near my eyes.

    It’s quite good that you’ll be best placed to work on the other side of the fence since you’ve experience of your side; however I wonder, do all nee naw field agents get a chance to work on your side too so that their best placed to understand how you can best work together?

  4. Mark Myers Says:

    Recently, a day in control has been part of the “field agents”‘ (love the expression!) training, but they don’t generally come back unless they have to (who can blame them?) and some of the older ones have never set foot in Nee Naw Control at all. Some just don’t know about various procedures in the control room and we have to explain it to them. Not their fault – keeping up with the control room should be part of their ongoing training.

  5. Tom the Tech Says:

    Hey Mark,

    Still luvvin’ the site. Left your neck of the woods a while back, but have always been interested in the control side of things. Our nee naw service is asking if there’s any ‘field agents’ (Nice!) that want to do relief or O/T in control. If you can’t beat ‘em…!


  6. Rob Says:

    ha, ha – glad you like the expression

    I didn’t think that they’d visit too often since everyone (I imagine) is stretched pretty thin most of the time anyway. Like you say, in an ideal world it’d be brilliant if they could spend some time with you.


  7. Kal Says:

    Great post, should probably do something similar for “I wanna be a Namalance man, how do I do it?”

    Which I’ve been asked about four times in the past week.

  8. Miranda Says:

    Thank you that was most nteresting and I’m very much looking forward to Part II.

    The heart of steel part is where I would fall down, alas.

  9. Steve Says:

    I can relate to your comments about spelling.

    Two that drive me up the wall in my job are “lightening damage” and “sink loss”, (should be sync for those that are non-technical).

  10. domino Says:

    needles have never bothered me since I had my arterial blood gasses done (radial, too) about 15 years ago. I guess that kind of experience can send you either way! Plus I have the depo contraceptive injection every twelve weeks (tmi, sorry…)

    I think I’d manage everything on the list, but I’m a sensitive sod, so don’t know how well I could cope that way. Mind, I did assist at an RTA a couple of years ago (a kid came off his scooter, and despite doing an Evel Kenevil was relatively unscathed) and my husband said he was impressed at how calm I was!

    Having said all that, I worked in a call centre for an insurance company for five years, and *that* was stressful, so I’ll bow out, ta.

    nice to see you again, Mark :)

  11. Ben Says:

    Hi Mark, I’ve been following your blog for a while and find it very interesting reading. I work for Beds and Herts Dispatch, so have probably spoken to you at some point (you passing us jobs, or vice versa). You, like me, seem to enjoy the job but find it absolutely infuriating at times! When are you hoping to go out on the road? I’m going to apply to LAS around December I think (before its too late!).


  12. Ben Says:

    Hi Mark, I’ve been following your blog for a while and find it very interesting reading. I work for Beds and Herts Dispatch, so have probably spoken to you at some point (you passing us jobs, or vice versa). You, like me, seem to enjoy the job but find it absolutely infuriating at times! When are you hoping to go out on the road? I’m going to apply to LAS around December I think (before its too late!).


  13. Ben Says:

    Btw, apologies for posting the above twice, having some problems with my
    computer at the moment. Sorry!

  14. stacy hayman Says:

    i’ve just seen the posts on this website, i need someones help by this time tomorrow, i ve got an assessment on friday 14th dec and could do with some coaching, im 19 and would love to become a paramedic and this seems like the perfect way, BUT…. im crap at dictation i struggeld with it in school and i know i will now……. please help me lol x

  15. Jack Squires Says:

    Just the same as stacy above really! just my test is in the 15th! not too bad with the dictation, but my spelling is crap! would love to know how it was stacy! hope to hear from you soon, Jack

  16. stacy hayman Says:

    hey i did my tests and that and relized it was quite easy, i got called back for an interview, which i missed because i got food poisoning the day before and coulnt keep anything down but i am gettin another interview in a couple of weeks….. dont worry bout it too much otherwise the pencils slips out of your hand because ur sweatin so much lol let me no how it went jack would love to hear your view, stacy x

  17. Jack Squires Says:

    yer ill defo let ya know, as i said 14th!! i try not to be nervous, but you know how it is… well that’s sods law what with the food poisoning! still you got another chance! Hope it all goes well for you, just fink hope 2 c u at training school!! lol my e-mail is jack_a_spack@hotmail.co.uk, hope the interview goes well for you, thanks for the reply! Jack

    Nee Naw
    Nee Naw was a blog about life in the London Ambulance Service control room. It was written by Suzi Brent from 2005 to 2010. The blog is no longer being updated, but the archives will remain here.
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