Swapping nursing scrubs for a fire tunic

A life-saving cardiology nurse associate has left the job he loved and instead put his burning desire to keep people safe to another use – in his new career as a firefighter.

Rhys Johnstone had always wanted to become a firefighter but it wasn’t on the cards when he left college in 2012.

He decided to direct his passion for saving lives to another sector when an opportunity came to train to be a nurse with the NHS.

The 28-year-old spent six years on the cardiology ward at Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital in Cramlington.

But the burning passion for the fire service never went away and last year the Whitley Bay native applied to Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS).

Already armed with knowledge of the emergency service life, Rhys excelled in the recruitment process and on their whole-time firefighter course.

He even provided help to other trainees when working on their trauma care, demonstrating the leadership skills needed in the job.

Last month, the soon-to-be new dad joined 19 other recruits at a passing out ceremony before being deployed to join watches across the region.

Rhys is now saving lives in his role as a firefighter at Swalwell Community Fire Station and says keeping people calm is “something I’m good at”.

“It’s very different to life on the ward, I was used to dealing with people who’d already been through A&E before getting to me, but now I’m the one giving that first response,” said Rhys.

“My nursing background I think will help when I’m talking to people in emergency situations, keeping them calm is something I’m good at.

“There is a lot to take on board on the recruits course and sometimes you do want to give up but your course mates help you through it.

“I almost lost a bit of hope after being put on the reserve list because you don’t know what’s going to happen but I’m so glad I got the call because it came at the perfect time for me and my family.

“There are ups and downs on this course but you’ve got to enjoy them, the highs are so high and the lows can be so low but the people on your course will get you through it.”

Today (Friday) one of TWFRS’s most senior officers is praising Rhys for this change in career because of the wealth of knowledge it can bring to the Service.

Assistant Chief Fire Officer Lynsey McVay said “Rhys’s background in healthcare will be an excellent tool for him when he is out dealing with emergency situations with his watch.

“Not only does he have advanced training he can provide support to his colleagues and help them expand their knowledge when it comes to our trauma care response before our blue light colleagues arrive at an incident.

“It’s great to see so many people on our recruits course who have taken the leap from very different roles to become firefighters.

“They have the ability to think different about situations and bring experience from a range of different areas to their watch and our service.

“Twenty trainees joined watches all over our region last month and we can’t wait to welcome more.”

TWFRS are currently not recruiting for wholetime firefighters however, you can find out more and register your interest to become a firefighter on their website.