Wales Air Ambulance is marking International Women’s Day 2019 by highlighting some of the inspiring women who work for the lifesaving charity.

International Women’s Day is an annual global event held on March 8th. The notable date has existed for over a century with the first recorded event taking place in 1911. The day focuses on celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women worldwide.

Throughout the course of International Women’s Day 2019, Wales Air Ambulance will be shining the light on three key members of female staff from different sectors including medicine, aviation, and charity management.

 

Michelle Morris – Head of HR, Organisational Development & Volunteering

For me, International Women’s Day is a chance to reflect on the changes in attitude towards women from social, economic and political perspectives and to celebrate the successes and achievements of women.

I was very fortunate to have been inspired by my wonderful German teacher (who was also a single mother of 2 children) at school, who encouraged us, teenage girls, to be kind, work hard, take ownership and responsibility for our own futures and to have the courage to challenge the status quo…. never accepting things at face value!

The shift in attitudes towards women for me can be summed up by my own experience.

At 18 years old, I started the process to join the army and was advised that given my excellent assessment scores I could apply to join any corps that I wanted; I opted for the Royal Engineers.

I was turned down because it was a male-only corps (this was in the mid-1980s) and I was asked whether I had considered a career in the Nursing Corps? Given my very weak stomach, I had not considered this, and I was somewhat offended to have been offered this option only.

Taking advice from my German teacher, I did indeed challenge this and I am delighted that things have changed significantly in our armed forces and women are now eligible to apply to join any corps irrespective of sex and based purely on ability. This however only changed as women had the courage to challenge the status quo.

Whilst attitudes and opportunities are now more widely available to women, there remain challenges globally where access to education, choice, and opportunity are limited for women and I encourage everyone to get behind and support the fantastic organisations and people who seek to improve the lives of other women.

My advice to young women is the same as my German teacher gave me: 

“Be kind, work hard, take ownership and responsibility for your own future and have the courage to challenge. Most importantly surround yourselves with good friends.



Cat Bryceland – Helicopter Transfer Practitioner (Helimed 67) – Children’s Wales Air Ambulance

From a young age, I wanted to be a nurse, I'm not entirely sure why, but I always enjoyed helping and talking to people. As a child, I used to make hospitals out of Lego and "nurse" my dolls.

After a few years into my nursing career I developed a passion for prehospital care, but at the time no paid nursing employment in this field really existed, so I started volunteering for the West Midlands CARE Team gaining valuable prehospital skills. I realised this was where I wanted to be, so I took the tough decision to retrain to become a paramedic, which was initially a backward step in terms of pay and skills but has helped me gain this dream job.

The paramedic training came with its own challenges. In A&E I was comfortable in my environment, I always had people to ask if I was unsure and had a whole host of diagnostic equipment and security available. The move to an area which was unfamiliar and unpredictable, where you are usually a crew of two with limited kit and no security guards was a big difference. I also found that people had negative preconceptions of A&E nurses and I had to overcome this stigma with some colleagues. 

It feels great though to be the first female Helicopter Transfer Practitioner for Wales Air Ambulance, and I'm very proud. It's nice to have a mix of staff and hopefully, I can bring some female qualities to the job. 

If I could give one bit of advice to the future generation of female medics, I would tell them:

“Make the most of any opportunities given to you and create your own opportunities too. Network at conferences, volunteer, take part in simulations and continually strive to be the best version of you that you can be.