In 2018, Kim Wright, from Somerset, decided enough was enough and retired early from her high-powered management job to go in search of a better work-life balance. Today, the married mum-of-two drives a patient transport ambulance and, although she now lives a more frugal life to protect her savings, she is much more content with life.
Kim didn’t plan to work in patient transport; she just knew she had to get out of her stressful management role, which in the end was doing her more harm than good. Although the work was well paid, she eventually resigned and decided to take early retirement – a decision which she has never regretted.
Since retiring, Kim (who is fifty-something), has poured her extra time into doing more of the things she loves – including blogging, volunteering to help others, and driving a patient transport ambulance part-time!
The nature of working on a “bank” basis means that Kim’s hours aren’t fixed. Instead, she works flexibly and picks up shifts when she can, which is usually when permanent staff are off sick or on holiday. In a typical week, she will complete three 10-hour shifts, meaning that the rest of the week is dedicated to “Kim-time”.
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“We have a regular patient who has his guide dog with him. It takes all my resolve not to hug him and pet him throughout the journey – the dog, not the patient!”
Kim’s journey as a Patient Transport Driver started when she applied to work for a company that supplies non-emergency transport for NHS patients in the South West of England, who need to get to and from hospital – e.g. to attend a hospital appointment or following discharge. Kim doesn’t earn anywhere near what she used to, but finds additional reward in the direct contact that she gets to have with patients; something which she has also enjoyed previously during a previous career as a Nurse. However, Kim finds that now as a Patient Transport Driver, she gets to spend more time with patients, seeing them through their care from beginning to end.
Kim says, “In this job, I get to talk to and care for people of all ages for the duration, and then see them safely to their destination. The age range is huge. I’ve transported a 3-year-old and a 99-year-old on the same day! We also have a regular patient who has his guide dog with him. It takes all my resolve not to hug him and pet him throughout the journey – the dog, not the patient!”
Despite having some relevant experience in the healthcare sector, Kim explains that this isn’t the case for many of the other career-changers within her team, which includes ex-lorry drivers and retired policemen.
Enjoying patient stories
One of Kim’s favourite things about her job is the interaction with patients, and all the insight into their lives she is able to gain along the way, especially when they share unforgettable stories.
In a recent blog post, Kim describes some of her most interesting encounters with patients.
She says, “People over the age of 90 often tell stories of the war. A land girl who mended tractors was a memorable one. Even patients who are suffering from dementia can become lucid and enjoy talking as they recall their younger days. A particular lady sticks in my mind. One day, first thing in the morning, we picked her up from the Medical Assessment Unit at the BRI to take her home. As we arrived, we could hear her talking to the nurse. ‘You need more training, dear!’
“We rounded the corner to meet a 97 year-old very smart lady putting on her red lipstick. She had beautiful eyebrows, which she later told me were tattooed; ‘they last so much longer, my dear,’ she said. The lady had been born in India during the first world war, and had grown up in the British Empire. She was upright, authoritative and as sharp as a tack. It was a joy to hear her stories of the Raj.”
“I think I’ve found the recipe for a happy life, if not a wealthy one…”
Like most jobs, driving a patient transport ambulance does come with challenges and frustrations – for example, getting stuck in traffic or dealing with agitated patients, but so far for Kim, these haven’t been significant enough to outweigh the positives that her new job has brought to her life.
She says, “From my perspective, although the old fella and I are living on a shoestring to avoid eating into our savings, I’m much more fulfilled and enjoying life! I think I’ve found the recipe for a happy life, if not a wealthy one…”