Philippa Gibbs

TAAS Critical Care Paramedic and Base Manager

I started my working career in catering before joining the Warwickshire Ambulance Service in 1997. When I joined the ambulance service, my priority was to progress from the patient transport service side onto the A+E side as a technician.

Going out on emergency calls was scary enough at that stage. I progressed through exams and training and became a Paramedic in 2000- again a daunting upgrade as I was now directly caring for emergency patients. Having then done seven years on the road as a paramedic I was keen to progress the clinical care we could provide, and the opportunity arose to apply for selection to join Warwickshire & Northamptonshire Air Ambulance team (now operated by The Air Ambulance Service); on the second time of doing the hardest selection weekends you could possibly imagine (and we all still remember our selection weekends!) I was lucky enough to join the team and train as a Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) Paramedic. The Critical Care Paramedic (CCP) as a role then progressed and become recognised around 2010, and so I did my additional training and education for this – completing it in 2012.

Women were a minority in the ambulance service initially; colleagues were always very supportive, and we did an equal job, and were treated no differently to male colleagues. The public however were sometimes less encouraging when female ambulance staff turned up, many comments about ‘’are you sure you can manage, it’s quite heavy’’ or ‘’I thought they would send a man’’ and ‘’are you able to drive the ambulance’’. The progress of women being accepted as equal has become a lot better as my career has progressed, and for the CCP education and air ambulance working there are no barriers or bias, and women are as much the heart of pre-hospital care teams as men.

The theme this International Women’s Day is ‘inspire inclusion’ so for me I’d say that’s about respect for a job and a role regardless of any characteristics of any of the people involved. If someone does a job equally as well as the next person, that’s just it. I also believe inclusion doesn’t mean equal in every aspect but does mean being included within a team, organisation or whatever, in an equally respected way for any level or characteristics you have.

I don’t think about being a woman, I think about doing the best job amongst all peers, we all bring strengths and respect to all others, never make excuses for anything, or let it affect your performance compared to others – I am only 5ft 3 and small, but I would always carry the same and do the same as bigger potentially stronger colleague. If you want to achieve something it takes determination, hard work, and patience whoever you are, but it absolutely can be done.

Something I would like to see continue going forward is flexibility to encourage anyone who wants to achieve a role regardless of gender and acceptance that some people want to do different roles to others – there should always be equal opportunity.