Caroline Leech

TAAS Doctor and Deputy Clinical Lead

On International Women’s Day I think it’s important to highlight that there are far fewer female applicants to Pre-Hospital Emergency Medicine (PHEM) than there are our male colleagues.

As a doctor working in the PHEM environment, and as a single parent, it can be very tricky, particularly because we have 12-hour shifts, we have long commutes to get to our air ambulance bases, and if you are on a late job, sometimes we finish two hours late as there’s no-one to handover to like there is in hospital. So, it can be a really challenging job, particularly if you’re a parent with childcare responsibilities – but it is really important to highlight that it is possible, and within PHEM, you’ll see lots of female role models, there a lots of people who can be mentors, and I’d really encourage women to look at career in PHEM because it can be possible.

This year’s theme is ‘inspire inclusion’ which for me really means everybody having equity in the opportunities that are available, and within PHEM, the workforce is very much white male doctors, and we need to work on improving diversity and ensuring that everyone can achieve a career in PHEM.

I’ve been lucky to have a very successful PHEM career but there are still occasions when there are people on scene – at a car accident for example – who assume that I am the paramedic and not the doctor and that the male paramedic is actually the doctor, and we see that quite a lot when we’re at scene, so there are some gender bias’s that are still occurring within medicine.

A final message I’d like to share is that I’m a doctor who works for The Air Ambulance Service, I also have a full-time job within the NHS, and I’m also a single parent. This obviously makes it particularly challenging doing pre-hospital shifts, but we do have the ability to do less than full-time working in PHEM, so don’t forget that. We are looking at ways that we can improve flexible working and job sharing, so that people who do have childcare responsibilities have more support to do this specialty, and I really encourage those who want to, to pursue a career in Pre-Hospital Emergency Medicine.