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University paramedics take to streets on World Hypertension Day to warn of dangers of ‘silent killer’

Susan Rhind, paramedic practice lecturer, University of Cumbria

Student paramedics at the University of Cumbria are inviting members of the public to have a quick health check that could save lives.

A team of 16 students on the university’s undergraduate paramedic practice programme will be in the centre of Ambleside carrying out blood pressure screenings on participating passers-by on World Hypertension Day, Friday 17 May 2019.

Hypertension – or high blood pressure – is commonly referred to as the ‘silent killer’ because often the first time a person knows they have it is after they have suffered a heart attack or stroke.

The trainees will be on hand to screen members of the public at the Market Cross, Ambleside between 11am and 2pm next Friday, a short distance from the university’s campus in Rydal Road. They will be under the watchful eye of their lecturers, who are all qualified paramedics.

Susan Rhind, paramedic practice lecturer, said: “This event helps to enhance the links between the university and the community in Ambleside, where our undergraduate paramedic practice diploma course is based.

“From a teaching point of view, we thought it would be a good idea to take our students out to give them experience of working with the public, in a setting with real people. It also helps them to learn how to take blood pressure properly when they have to take into account and experience different people and variations such as clothing and environmental factors like the weather. It demonstrates to the students how they must adapt to what is happening around them.

“Taking someone’s blood pressure is not invasive but it does provide a picture of someone’s overall health. Depending on the results they get, it will encourage our students to give some lifestyle advice and information to those we meet. We, as lecturers, who will be there with them, are all qualified health professionals and we will be able to provide that advice and information going forward to those who come and see us if we have to make recommendations to see a GP or nurse practitioner.”

Hypertension rarely has noticeable symptoms and left untreated it puts extra strain on blood vessels, heart and other organs. It can also increase a person’s risk of serious and potentially life-threatening conditions such as heart attacks, strokes, kidney disease and vascular dementia. The NHS says more than one in four people have high blood pressure, although many won’t realise it.

Stewart Ralph, principal lecturer in paramedic practice at the university, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for our new cohort who recently commenced their studies with us at Ambleside to engage with members of the public and practice their blood pressure taking skills.

“These students will soon commence their first ambulance placement on emergency ambulances with the North West Ambulance Service, where they be learning alongside paramedics to gain invaluable experience in developing their knowledge and skills required to work in the prehospital environment.

“Paramedic education at the university has flourished over recent years with our first undergraduate Diploma in Higher Education in Paramedic Practice cohort recently completing their studies from Ambleside.

“We have also built an excellent reputation nationally with a range of CPD (continued professional development) opportunities for the existing paramedic workforce, whereby paramedics from a high proportion of the NHS Ambulance Service Trusts and HM Armed Forces are engaging with continued studies to further develop their knowledge and expertise. It really is an exciting time to be or become a paramedic.”

Around 745 paramedics are currently undertaking development courses with the University of Cumbria, which works closely with ambulance trusts nationwide and has a global impact with learners in United Arab Emirates, Canada and the Armed Forces all over the world.

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