Jess joined Devon Air Ambulance as a Trainee Specialist Paramedic in Critical Care in January 2019; a year on she is part way through her Masters degree - MSc in Pre-Hospital Critical Care/Retrieval and Transfer. Jess shares her experience with us of working in a field in which historically women have been under-represented. 

I've worked in hospitals and didn’t enjoy being stuck indoors for long shifts. I saw the ambulance crews bringing in a variety of patients of all ages and clinical conditions and I thought that might be a role I’d enjoy.

I began working for the NHS 10 years ago and joined the ambulance service 8 years ago doing non-emergency patient transport work. In 2013 I began my university course to train to become a paramedic.

Working as part of a critical care service means attending patients that are experiencing critical illness or injury, something that was important to me. I also wanted to pursue higher education and I'm now studying an MSc at the University of Plymouth, which Devon Air Ambulance supports us with - flying around in a helicopter is alright too!

I went from being a land paramedic to a Trainee Specialist Paramedic in Critical Care. As paramedics we undertake a lot of continued professional development to maintain our registration, which involves attending lots of courses and taking part in educational activities regularly to keep ourselves clinically up to date.

I am lucky to have benefited from several mentors in my career so far, but there are currently very few female role models within the field. I’d like to see a more equal split between males and females within all specialist roles.

Recent data shows that just 1 in 4 critical care paramedics and 1 in 5 critical care doctors are female. I hope that this statistic becomes more balanced in the coming years; I think that women need to be seen in such roles to inspire others.

Change has been slow but will become more pronounced in the future. We get the opportunity to work with lots of paramedic and medical students and increasing numbers are female, so it’s just about working out how to encourage more women to apply for specialist roles.

My advice to those looking into a career such as mine is to be sure the job is for you before you go through the years of training to qualify: the job is hard, it both toughens you up and softens you down, you need to be prepared to work long hours and need to understand the impact of shift work on your personal life and how fatigue may creep into your rest days.

You need to be able to manage a whole array of situations and be sure to commit to lifelong learning to remain clinically sound. It's important to prepare yourself mentally for the situations we are regularly exposed to that most people will never experience in a lifetime.

But having said all this, if you decide it is for you, it is an incredibly rewarding career; one in which you can enjoy coming to work, learning new things on every shift and working within a great team of like-minded people with whom you can fly or drive around beautiful places like Devon.

Watch our 2020 International Women's Day short film

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