In March 2015 Health Education East Midlands commissioned Sheffield Hallam University and The University of Northampton to jointly deliver a project to increase the number of black and minority ethnic (BME) learners studying to become paramedics.
The project aimed to increase BME applications and enrolments by 10 per cent and to remove bias at the application stage.
Herpreet works for West Midlands Ambulance Service as a paramedic. In her own words, Herpreet tells us about her journey into the NHS, the challenges she overcame to realise her career dream, and how widening participation can learn from her experience.
I was in part inspired to become a paramedic when my friend suffered a seizure while at university. This was a really frightening thing to witness and although the ambulance was on its way, it seemed to take forever to arrive. My instinct to help kicked in, and when my friend came round it was such a massive relief. It was then that I knew I wanted to take my career further than dietetics, which was the course I was studying at the time. I knew I wanted to work in a profession where I could help, and offer reassurance to people who find themselves in similar situations.
I joined St Johns Ambulance to get a better insight into the role of the paramedic, and I loved it. I also started looking at jobs on the NHS Jobs website, where I found a role at with East Midlands Ambulance Service working in their patient transport service team, I thought this role would be a good starting point for me, and I knew I could work my way up to become an emergency care assistant (ECA) which I did, within a year.
When I told my family I wanted to do something more medically meaningful they believed I was going to apply to do medicine, or something along those lines. They were surprised when I told them I was applying for the job with East Midlands Ambulance Service. My parents found it hard to accept at first, as nobody in my family had taken this career choice before me. I explained to my parents it was all part of my plan to become a paramedic, but they were not sure.
To progress from ECA to paramedic I applied to Sheffield Hallam University, when I was accepted onto the course I was so happy, I couldn’t believe it! What made it even better was that my family were ecstatic for me, I had no regrets.
The more I talked to my family about the job and my colleagues, the happier they became, and their attitude towards the paramedic role improved. If the NHS wants more involvement from the Asian community, knowledge and understanding of the paramedic role is a big deal. If you ask anybody in the Asian community what their ideal career would be, it would typically be lawyer, engineer, doctor or dentist. The paramedic profession isn’t at the forefront of people’s minds, so expanding their knowledge is key.
Dignity and respect is very important to Asian communities, I had to show that the paramedic role is a highly respected profession, where men and women are treated equally and mutual trust exists between colleagues. I explained to my parents that there are women in the service who, despite doing 12 hour shifts and working nights are still married, have families and are able to bring up their children, an important issue for Asian families.
Learning new skills and gaining in confidence has allowed me to progress my career in the NHS, I moved from the East Midlands Ambulance Service to work at West Midlands Ambulance Service and I’m still there!
To find out more about the project and how East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS) widened participation in their recruitment please email firstname.lastname@example.org