International Women’s Day (IWD) is marked annually on March 8. IWD is a global day that celebrates the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality. IWD has occurred for well over a century, with the first IWD gathering in 1911 supported by over a million people. You can learn more about IWD’s history here. Today, IWD belongs to all groups collectively everywhere.
To celebrate International Women’s Day, listed below are five incredible stories and achievements of females in different air ambulance charities across the UK.
Dr Sophie Mitchinson – Air Ambulance Kent Surrey Sussex
“I’ve been with KSS for three years and six months. I undertook a full time secondment from August 2019 to October 2020 and continued in an Emeritus role before returning as a line-share Doctor in December 2021.
Working for KSS was an aspiration of mine for many years and involved a lot of hard work, determination and perseverance (plus a few tears along the way!).
The best part of my job is getting to work with an amazing group of dynamic and varied individuals, all striving to ensure we offer high quality care to the most seriously unwell and injured people of Kent, Surrey and Sussex.
I feel very privileged working for KSS. Having been born and bred in Kent, with most of my family still residing in the region, it is fantastic to be able to be part of a team that is helping to keep them safe.
The people of Kent, Surrey and Sussex are incredibly proud of their Air Ambulance and the support we receive from the public is humbling. I am still astounded by the number of people who come out to look at the aircraft when we land in public places and wave us off when it’s time to leave.
Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS) have traditionally been very male dominated, with a lot of alpha personalities, but this is something that has definitely changed over the last five to ten years. You look around now and see more and more women taking up roles within the pre-hospital environment, but the gender ratios are still far from equal. I still get asked time and time again, ‘how is it being a woman doing your job?’!
That’s because it’s still seen as a hard job for women to get into and sustain but I really don’t believe this is the case anymore and we need to get that message out there loud and clear.
Many females I speak to worry about how they would balance a job like this with a family, if that’s what they want, but there are plenty of women out there doing just that and being hugely successful. There’s still more we need to do to balance things out, but we are getting there.”
Vicki Brown – Great Western Air Ambulance Charity
On Monday 14 November 2022, the Air Ambulances UK Awards of Excellence returned to Edgbaston Stadium in Birmingham. It was a chance to celebrate and recognise the specialist lifesaving skills and commitment of all those working tirelessly within, and in support of, the air ambulance community.
APCC Vicki Brown brought home the Breaking Barriers award for her trailblazing work in carving a career pathway for paramedics in the UK.
Earlier this year she became the first person in the country to get on the Faculty of Pre-Hospital Care (FPHC) Register of Consultant (Level 8) Practitioners by qualifying from a purely paramedic background. Since the first registration in 2015 to Vicki’s registration, there were only 70 individuals on the list. This achievement followed hot on the heels of Vicki becoming the South West’s first Advanced Practitioner in Critical Care in 2020.
Vicki’s drive and ambition help GWAAC provide the best possible care to patients in the region while giving other paramedics across the country an opportunity to follow in her footsteps.
“I am very honoured to receive this award and hope to continue to push the boundaries of paramedic practice and set up pathways for others.”
Vicki Brown, Advanced Practitioner in Critical Care, GWAAC
Hannah, Abi and Laura – Great Western Air Ambulance Charity
In 2022, our Great Western Heartstarters volunteers helped teach CPR and defibrillation to 6,469 people at secondary schools and events, with nearly 50 women volunteering to teach this vital skill!
Hannah, Abi and Laura are three of the amazing women that give their spare time to help educate people on how to help save the life of a cardiac arrest victim. We spoke to them about why they take time out of their busy schedules to help us.
Hannah Chorlton – Firefighter – Avon Fire and Rescue
Why did you want to get involved?
I’m a firefighter for Avon Fire and Rescue. I saw an advert asking for Heartstarters volunteers on the intranet at work. I didn’t know GWHS was a thing before that point, but it sounded like a great project. When I was at school, no one taught me how to do CPR. I think everyone should have the opportunity to learn CPR from a young age. As a firefighter working shifts, I get some time off. It feels good to do something productive on my days off.
How does being a GWHS volunteer make you feel?
It’s fulfilling seeing the kids learn about something so important. Some take it more seriously than others and are really invested which is great. But even those who are not as invested might come back to it one day having tried it once. We give the children the knowledge to know how to act in an emergency situation. And knowing what to do builds confidence. I find the children engage most with the hands-on, try-it-for-yourself bits. As a firefighter, we get training in rescue, trauma and casualty care, and we carry defibrillators in the fire engines. Being a Heartstarters volunteer is a really fulfilling way of being able to use the skills I’ve learned at work to help people in a different way — a preventative way.
Abi Smith – Student Paramedic – UWE
Why did you want to get involved?
I’ve been a student paramedic for two years and will be qualifying as a paramedic next summer (Which is WAY too soon, but also exciting at the same time!!!). I have only started volunteering with GWHS in the last few months, but already I love it and know I will be doing more sessions once exam season is done! I wanted to join GWHS because of my passion for the educational side of the job. As we know, CPR is a vital skill and can increase the chances of survival for someone suffering a cardiac arrest. I have a strong belief that everyone should learn CPR as it could potentially save someone’s life! I do my best to share this skill with others by volunteering with GWHS. I aim to teach CPR to as many students as possible, and maybe even inspire them to become paramedics!
How does being a GWHS volunteer make you feel?
I enjoy being a Heartstarters volunteer because (without sounding too cheesy) you can really make a difference.Students may one day find themselves in a situation with someone who is suffering a cardiac arrest. The sessions we deliver could be the difference between that patient living or dying, which makes running them so important. I’m also a massive nerd when it comes to paramedicine so when I find students who are interested in becoming paramedics it gives me an opportunity to tell them all the wonderful aspects of the job, not just the big jobs, but the smaller ones where even a conversation with a lonely patient can make their day. Being a Heartstarters volunteer gives me a chance to practice my skills, meet new people and make a difference in the community.
Laura Harvey – Trainee Nurse Associate at Southmead Hospital
I see the value in teaching children and young people CPR because I understand the beneficial impact it can have on a patient if that young person is first on the scene. Even if they don’t want to perform it themselves, I tell the children to call for help and tell someone else how to do it.
I’ve been volunteering for Great Western Heartstarters for years, way before the pandemic. I’m a trainee Nurse Associate at Southmead (I have a few weeks left) and I do Heartstarters on my day off. I do one session every two months.
We spend an hour with each year group or class, and it can sometimes be a whole day if we train various classes.
We start each session with an introduction about who we are, and we show a video of a cardiac arrest patient’s story. We give a demo of the DRS ABC rules and the recovery position. And then we put the children into groups for a practical. They like the practical bit!
“It feels good being a Heartstarters volunteer because I can educate young people with a life skill. A lot of the children say afterward that if they see someone in a cardiac arrest they will help or at least feel able to tell someone else to do it. Result!”
A fun thing to do with the children is to play a game at the end – the CPR Relay. We line the children up and place a dummy at the front of the line. The child at the front does thirty proper chest compressions then goes to the back of the line and so it goes on… If I’m feeling mean I make the teachers do it too.
I enjoy delivering these life skills to the younger generation. You never know, maybe they’ll want to grow up to be doctors in the future.
Louise Polledri – Supporter of the Sam Polledri Foundation
A GWAAC team were at Millennium Square Friday 29 July to teach CPR and Automated External Defibrillator (AED) usage. The event coincided with the unveiling of a public access defibrillator in memory of Sam Polledri, who suffered a fatal cardiac arrest nearby earlier this year.
The team consisted of Heartstarters volunteers and Specialist Paramedics in Critical Care Callum and Jack and Critical Care Doctor Tim Godfrey. The hope is that the skills being taught that day will help save lives of some of the people who suffer out of hospital cardiac arrests every day.
People like 24 year old Sam Polledri who suffered a cardiac arrest on Millennium Square in February of this year. Sam’s death was a tragedy that might have been avoided if he’d had access to a community defibrillator. Where he collapsed, he was surrounded by five AEDs, but none were accessible to the public.
Sam’s family has since been pouring their efforts into trying to save other lives in his name. The Sam Polledri Foundation (through GWAAC) is aiming to install public access defibrillators in as many places as possible. The first was unveiled on this day, with two more to follow at Downs Café and in Stoke Bishop by the Co-Op.
The event was attended by members of Sam’s family and friends from the rugby community. Sam’s mum Louise had this to say:
“Sam was beautiful on the outside but most importantly he was so beautiful on the inside.
In his honour we have raised enough money to install our first public access defibrillator in Millennium square, Bristol, where he tragically passed. To save other lives in Sam’s name, he would want us to do this”.
We The Curious are fully supporting Sam’s family and their cause. In addition to installing the AED and plaque in Sam’s memory, they are also renaming the bench near Sam’s memorial and planting forget-me-nots in Sam’s memorial garden behind it. Their collaboration and support has been hugely appreciated by Sam’s family and GWAAC.