Nicky Broszek: ‘Mum and daughter ambulance teams are rare, but we’re a comfort to people’

As a paramedic, Nicky Broszek’s working day often involves traumatic scenes. So she felt a strange mix of pride and anxiety when her daughter Maisie wanted to follow in her footsteps.

Nicky Broszek and Maisie
‘Many people say they couldn’t work with their mum but we love it’: lifesavers Maisie and Nicky

Nicky’s story

Paramedic Nicky Broszek, 52, lives near Sevenoaks in Kent with husband Steve, 54, and their daughters Ashley, 26, and Maisie, 21.

When Maisie told me she was thinking of joining me at the London Ambulance Service three years ago, I wasn’t surprised. She’s always loved looking after people and making things better – and I knew driving on the wrong side of the road would appeal to her.

Ever since she was a child Maisie has had all the qualities you need for this job; she’s very mature, capable and caring in everything she does. Even so, I still had mixed feelings about her joining the service. I knew she would be brilliant – she has the right level-headedness that you need to keep calm in volatile situations – but I didn’t want her seeing some of the sad things that we deal with.

I also didn’t want her subjected to the physical and verbal abuse that comes on a very regular basis, or to be in a really dangerous situation. Your job as a mum is to protect them.

But she took to the role like a duck to water. At 18, she joined the London Ambulance Service as Emergency Ambulance Crew, who support paramedics like me, and she loved it.

We don’t get to choose who we work with but Maisie and I were paired together 15 to 20 times over a few years before she was sent to a different station base. She was a dream to work with – she looked after me and wouldn’t let me lift the heavy equipment.

We were together when we were sent to the Orpington bus crash in 2019. A car and two buses had collided, a bus driver died and a lot of people were injured. When Maisie read out the call, we knew straight from the off it was going to be a big job with a lot of trauma and high emotions. And I knew Maisie would never have seen anything like it as it’s the kind of thing you only see once or twice in your career, and I was worried she was going to be overwhelmed.

Nicky Broszek and Maisie
Nicky with Maisie, 1999

When we got to the crash, it looked like a war zone with debris and cars everywhere. I was pleased I could be with Maisie – I felt like I could protect her – but quickly I was needed for my paramedic skills and taken to the Major Trauma Centre, leaving her on the scene.

We were being filmed for BBC One’s Ambulance programme that day, and I later saw on TV just how sensible and caring she was as she dealt with the less seriously injured and the bus driver who survived. I was proud of her and in awe of how capable she was for her age, as I wouldn’t have been as confident.

Maisie has had years of me telling her stories when I come home from work, so she had a totally realistic view of the job even before she joined. Sometimes you just need to make someone a cup of tea or hold their hand.

I’d always wanted to be a paramedic, but at school they put me off saying I was too small at five foot two. So from the age of 20, I was self-employed running a beauty salon then working from home when the girls came along. But I was still interested in health and used to do first-aid courses until I became a community responder, carrying a defibrillator and being told where to go to help people. I got the bug aged 40 after I did my first cardiac arrest and soon joined the London Ambulance Service as emergency ambulance crew. I then qualified as a paramedic.

When Maisie joined, it didn’t change our relationship. We’ve always got on well, but it was nice to spend more time with her. We know instinctively how the other will be feeling about certain situations. We’ve been to traumatic stabbings and mental health incidents together, and I’ve seen how Maisie deals with elderly people – she is so kind, caring and gets quite emotional for those who are lonely.

I was worried about her when Covid first happened. I’ve never seen that many unwell people in my life and I thought: ‘Am I going to take the virus home? Is Maisie going to look like that?’ Thankfully, neither of us has had it.

Maisie and I do talk about the job at home, but not constantly, and our friends and family aren’t surprised how well we get on when we work together – we’re very close.

Nicky Broszek and family
Nicky, husband Steve and daughters Maisie and Ashley, 2000

Maisie’s story

Maisie Broszek, 21, is an emergency ambulance crew member for the London Ambulance Service.

A lot of people have said, ‘How do you work with your mum? My mum and I couldn’t spend that much time together!’ but we love it. It’s fun and we get on so well.

My first memories are of her running her beauty business from home and being a community responder. She’s incredibly caring and will give everything she’s got.

Then, about ten years ago, Mum joined the London Ambulance Service. She would come home with stories of arriving at a scene where someone was in cardiac arrest and how she would help them. You could see she was so proud and would never forget it. I was in absolute awe of what she did. I’d always known I wanted to do something in medicine so, at 18, I applied to join the London Ambulance Service and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.

You see some pretty bad stuff but also do things that are ten times better than any other job, such as delivering babies in weird and wonderful places, helping the elderly back into bed in the middle of the night, making someone a cup of tea when they are feeling unwell and helping patients in pain and discomfort.

I remember walking into mum’s workplace which was now my own for the first time and it was surreal. I was overwhelmed with how welcoming all her friends and colleagues were. We get on with each other’s work friends and often all meet up.

I was lucky enough to do a lot of training with Mum – everyone had told me what a good medic she is and that when they work with her it’s always exciting because they go to big jobs with her.

Maisie and Ashley
Maisie as a baby with big sister Ashley, 1999

It’s with complex medical jobs that Mum really shines. She’s incredibly knowledgeable and I feel very proud watching her treat patients as she’s switched-on and figures out what’s wrong quickly. I remember once we saw an elderly patient with a slow heart rate and Mum had treated him by the time I had come back from the ambulance with the trolley bed.

My first cardiac arrest was with her. I started resuscitation and was quite nervous but Mum told me to crack on – and it worked. It was the best thing and it was amazing to see how much she trusted my clinical judgment.

We were together again on the day of the Orpington bus crash. It would have been tense anyway but that day we had a camera crew with us. I was apprehensive about what I’d be seeing, but my main concern was going through my training in my head.

We were split up as soon as we got there but it didn’t worry me. I had a small part to play as I treated a patient with minor injuries but it was more about providing emotional support. It wasn’t hard – Mum has always encouraged me to think about others’ feelings and be there for them.

We’ve seen a lot of Covid and it was a worry for me that Mum would become unwell. I’ve never seen anyone as ill as people with the virus and I didn’t want to see anyone I cared about have it.

It’s been difficult for everyone in the NHS and it still is. I’m definitely still scared for Mum but over time we’re getting more used to it.

Working with Mum means I can relate to her a lot more. We’re often spotted as being mum and daughter when we’re on jobs – patients are always delighted and find it comforting.

As told to Lorraine Fisher