Last month the College of Paramedics, with support from AACE hosted the first inclusive recruitment conference in Birmingham’s Conference and Events Centre. The primary goal of this conference was to promote continuous collaboration for everyone involved in the process of recruitment, retention, and nurturing of paramedics. By engaging in these discussions, it highlights where we are currently falling short in terms of inclusivity, however it also allows us to exchange good practice so that people from all backgrounds are not only welcomed into the profession, but they’re also allowed to be their full selves and thrive!
Josh is a 3rd year paramedic and is the East of England’s student rep. Nova is paramedic in the south of England and is the Disability Strand Lead for the College’s Diversity Steering Group.
N: So Josh, before the conference, when you thought about the term “inclusion” within the paramedic profession, what came to mind?
J: When considering diversity, my mind conjures up an image of a university campus with various people from different backgrounds sitting on a hill together for a brief photo moment.
N: So it seemed like it was just a tick-box thing, not something actively pursued or paid attention to?
J: Yes, exactly. But how can we make this fictitious image a reality within the ambulance service? How can we shift our focus from mere box-ticking and appearing inclusive to actively working towards true inclusivity?
N: It’s a difficult task, certainly. But having these difficult discussions where everyone who has a hand in recruitment directly or indirectly, like Directors, lecturers, front and back-room staff can come together and voice their lived experiences and ideas on how to improve things, its a good start.
J: Were there any speakers or topics that stood out to you?
N: The presentation by Anton Emmanuel discussing the WRES data. I knew the ambulance sector doesn’t perform super well when it comes to hitting national targets [for employment of non-white-British people] but I did not realise how low it was. However, the data showed improvements year on year, and some decent improvements in management and higher positions.
J: Yeah, only 7%, that number struck me hard. It raises the question of what steps can we take to effect meaningful change? Dawn Whelan in her presentation emphasised that whatever we do, the “on-size-fits-all” approach won’t work at all. Everyone is unique, and we should embrace and celebrate our profession's rich diversity. We can better serve our diverse communities if we encourage and support diversity in our profession.
N: So, from the perspective of a student, do you think this kind of conference is necessary? Do you think your perspective on inclusivity within the profession has changed?
J: The statistics from the speakers paint a bleak picture of diversity within our paramedic profession. Nevertheless, the workshops were an essential aspect of this conference and highlighted good practice. It allowed representatives from various fields, such as ambulance directors and associate directors, senior university lecturers, and recruitment staff, to come together and discuss diversity and inclusion. Through these discussions, we learned how different sectors are working to become more diverse and inclusive. Attending this conference made me realise that we are on the right track. Having so many people from CEOs to front-line staff gathered to discuss ways to foster a more inclusive and diverse environment. It's encouraging to see everyone working together to achieve genuine inclusivity.
N: The statistics are less than ideal to be sure, although interestingly I learnt that LGBT+ representation within the ambulance service is higher than the reported national average! You mentioned the afternoon workshops (where I had the pleasure to co-host one with Anna Perry [AACE]) it was fascinating to learn things from so many perspectives. Knowing that there are currently positive actions happening, such as London Ambulance Service having a successful mentoring programme specifically for people from a BAME background to progress and thrive in upper management was a highlight of the day. As was watching people get out their diaries to book time in to share these successful concepts within Trusts and across organisations.
J: Do you have any final thoughts or feelings about the conference?
N: It’s difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel when you are someone who reads things like the WDES, WRES, and actively seeks discrimination and inequity so that it can be improved. However, events like this give me genuine hope for the future of the profession. And to paraphrase my colleague and friend, Dawn Whelan, it all starts with a snowflake to make an avalanche of progress.
J: The Paramedic Inclusive Recruitment Conference highlighted our progress in starting these critical conversations and working together to address this issue of diversity and inclusion. It also paints a clear picture of where we can go from here. Bringing together people from various backgrounds, such as the university paramedic senior lectures, to the ambulance service and other work settings where paramedics find themselves has made me realise that achieving this change and changing the culture of our Ambulance Service and other clinician settings will require a collaborative effort. However, it is possible, and this conference is the first step towards a genuinely inclusive and diverse workforce that embraces and celebrates individualism.