Celebrating International Women’s Day: where does this leave the paramedic profession?

07/03/2022

Celebrating International Women’s Day: where does this leave the paramedic profession?

Authors 
Caitlin Wilson  
University of Leeds; North West Ambulance Service NHS Trust  
ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-9854-4289
 
Larissa Stella  
Prothero East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust  
ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-5440-8429
 
Julia Williams  
South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust; University of Hertfordshire
ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-0796-5465
 
 
International Women’s Day 2022 has adopted the theme #BreakTheBias. It is encouraging people to look at how we can break the bias in our communities, in the education system and in the workplace. It promotes a vision of a gender equal world – one where diversity is celebrated and differences are valued. With growing numbers of women working in unscheduled, urgent and emergency care settings, what progress are we making within our working roles?  
 
Of the 1.3 million staff employed by the NHS, more than 75% are women, but how many work in UK ambulance settings? The ambulance workforce has been traditionally dominated by men; however, times are changing and now women represent 42.5% of ambulance staff across all service roles (NHS England, 2021). For UK paramedics, the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) reports 41.7% of paramedic registrants to be female and our profession remains the only one with more male than female registrants (HCPC, 2021). Looking to the future, hopefully this gender imbalance will be addressed by the increasing numbers of women on pre-registration degree programmes across the UK.  
 
But do women think of the health challenges they may face when entering the paramedic profession? There is evidence which shows shift-work negatively impacting both mental and physical health, including female reproductive health – that is, menstruation, pregnancy and the menopause (Harrington, 2001). Night shifts and long working hours can alter a woman’s circadian rhythm, affect hormone levels and disrupt the menstrual cycle. For women of child-bearing age, shift-working has been linked to increased risk of spontaneous abortion, low birth weight and prematurity (Fernandez et al., 2016; Stock et al., 2019). All women will experience a menopause transition when their oestrogen levels decline, and their menstrual periods cease. This typically occurs at 51 years; however, up to 10% of women can experience early menopause or premature ovarian insufficiency, which are both associated with typical menopausal symptoms (National Health Service, 2018). Also, transgender, non-binary and intersex people can experience the menopause. We should not forget our male colleagues in this discussion. As they work alongside us as crewmates or office colleagues, they too will experience our health challenges, and some will experience the male menopause as their testosterone levels fall (National Health Service, 2019). Menopausal symptoms can be challenging, and impact on personal well-being, workplace attendance and performance. Employer consideration of flexible working; maternity, paternity and adoption leave; childcare arrangements; alternative roles; and improved staff support may allow women and men to successfully balance work and family life and remain valued members of the ambulance workforce before retirement. Currently, there appears to be a paucity of evidence as to why and at what age women (and men) leave the ambulance profession and this is an area that would benefit from further exploration. 
 
 Linked to this is a need for more research on the daily experiences of women working in the ambulance setting. Bullying and harassment, including sexual harassment, have been reported in ambulance services in the UK and internationally. The ambulance profession has been referred to as a ‘boys’ club’ culture that is resistant to change (Manolchev & Lewis, 2021). In some countries there are examples of women-only ambulance services that provide female healthcare to communities with specific cultural requirements (Arab News, 2017; Julian, 2014). Understanding the roles, responsibilities and experiences of ambulance women in diverse clinical settings will enable appropriate support resources to be developed and female working lives to be improved.  
 
When we begin to look at leadership roles within ambulance services and across the broader NHS, these positions are predominantly held by men (NHS Digital, 2018). Figures from the UK Government (2021) Gender Pay Gap Service suggest that across ambulance services in England, women occupy lower paid jobs compared to men. This is illustrated by women making up on average only 42.8% of the highest hourly pay quarter, while the other quarters are split 50:50. This gap is narrowing within ambulance services and across the NHS over time, but more change is needed to support women to take up these leadership positions – ideally supported by research. 
 
 Speaking of research, this is one avenue of career progression for paramedics and one that is increasingly gaining traction in the UK. While no data are collected on the gender of research paramedics or ambulance staff pursuing clinical academic careers, the gender split of research leads in UK ambulance services is similar to that of senior positions overall: five out of 13 research leads are women. However, it is inspiring that the College of Paramedics head of research is a woman, and here on the British Paramedic Journal editorial board, both women and men (3:5) are represented. 
 
But what about when it comes to disseminating our research? Nowadays, conference organisers consider a balanced selection of speakers – be that of gender, ethnicity, topic areas or roles. And what about publications? The BPJ editors have recognised this journal does not collect author demographic information (including gender), so cannot report this information. We are now discussing the introduction of a voluntary gender-identity question for authors. This will enable us to report author gender and relevant gender-related trends in our research publications.  
 
Lastly, while the focus of this International Women’s Day editorial is on women in the ambulance service and paramedic research, it is not our intention to dismiss the challenges of men and non-binary individuals in the ambulance and research workforce. We recognise the need to work together to advance the evidence-base for the whole paramedic profession.  
 
Author contributions  
CW and LSP are joint first authors as they developed the initial draft for this manuscript. All three authors jointly revised the manuscript for publication. All three authors are on the BPJ editorial board.  


First published in 
British Paramedic Journal 1 March 2022, vol. 6(4) 1–2  
© The Author(s) 2022  
ISSN 1478–4726  
https://doi.org/10.29045/14784726.2022.03.6.4.1  
Reprints and permissions: info@class.co.uk  
The BPJ is the journal of the College of Paramedics: www.collegeofparamedics.co.uk 
 
References  
 
Arab News. (2017). Dubai launches women-only ambulance service. https://www.arabnews.pk/node/1123636/offbeat.  
 
Fernandez, R. C., Marino, J. L., Varcoe, T. J., Davis, S., Moran, L. J., Rumbold, A. R., Brown, H. M., Whitrow, M. J., Davies, M. J., & Moore, V. M. (2016). Fixed or rotating night shift work undertaken by women: Implications for fertility and miscarriage. Seminars in Reproductive Medicine, 34(02), 74–82.  
 
Harrington, J. M. (2001). Health effects of shift work and extended hours of work. Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 58, 68–72.  
 
Health and Care Professions Council. (2021). Registrant snapshot – 1 September 2021. https://www.hcpc-uk.org/about-us/insights-and-data/the-register/registrant-snapshot-sept-2021/.  
 
Julian, H. L. (2014). New Jewish ambulance in Brooklyn ‘for women only’. The Jewish Press. https://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/new-jewish-ambulance-in-brooklyn-for-women-only/2014/06/19/.  
 
Manolchev, C., & Lewis, D. (2021). A tale of two trusts: Case study analysis of bullying and negative behaviours in the UK ambulance service. Public Money & Management. https://doi.org/10.1080/09540962.2021.1934995.
 
National Health Service. (2018). Menopause. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/menopause/.
 
National Health Service. (2019). The ‘male menopause’. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/male-menopause/.
 
NHS Digital. (2018). Narrowing of NHS gender divide but men still the majority in senior roles. https://digital.nhs.uk/news/2018/narrowing-of-nhs-gender-divide-but-men-still-the-majority-in-senior-roles.
 
NHS England. (2021). NHS celebrates the vital role hundreds of thousands of women have played in the pandemic. https://www.england.nhs.uk/2021/03/nhs-celebrates-the-vital-role-hundreds-of-thousands-of-women-have-played-in-the-pandemic/.
 
Stock, D., Knight, J. A., Raboud, J., Cotterchio, M., Strohmaier, S., Willett, W., Eliassen, A. H., Rosner, B., Hankinson, S. E., & Schernhammer, E. (2019). Rotating night shift work and menopausal age. Human Reproduction, 34(3), 539–548.  
 
UK Government. (2021). Gender pay gap service. https://gender-pay-gap.service.gov.uk/. 

 

 

Temporary Registered Student Paramedic and NQP Support Resource

A new student support resource aimed at temporary registered students and NQPs.

14/04/2020


Today we have launched our student support resource. It is primarily aimed at temporary registered students and NQPs, although all students can benefit from its evolving content. This support website has been created in a very short period of time in collaboration with University educators, Ambulance Service colleagues and other passionate and enthusiastic friends around the UK. The main bulk of the content is provided by peers to ensure newly registered paramedics are as well prepared as possible to begin clinical practice today, in the context of Covid-19 and in the future as permanent HCPC registrants. It is envisaged that the site will grow and improve with time, contact details for any questions or further suggestions for content are provided on the website. A huge thank you to all the contributors involved and we hope that you enjoy exploring the new site and continuing your learning journey.   Click here to visit. 

2020 Research grants scheme

The College of Paramedics is running a small grant scheme that aims to support members to carry out research studies

10/03/2020

 

The College of Paramedics is running a small grant scheme that aims to support members to carry out research studies.

A maximum of three studies will be funded to a maximum of £1,250 each. The money can be used to support any aspect of the study including, but not limited to: 

  • salary costs
  • specific research equipment
  • specific software, for example, for analysis
  • support costs for lay/public involvement if these cannot be sourced elsewhere
  • transcription

The money cannot be used to pay for fees or travel costs incurred as part of a programme of study or conference attendance.

Applications for funding are invited from members of the College of Paramedics who are interested in enhancing their research activity. Applications can be from an individual person, or a team of people, but cannot be used towards part of a study that is already in receipt of funding from elsewhere.

Criteria for eligibility:

  • The lead applicant must be a current full member of the College of Paramedics
  • The applicant(s) must demonstrate that the study is relevant to the Paramedic profession
  • The proposed project should be completed within 12 months 
  • The successful award holder(s) must agree to publish their main paper to include results/findings in the British Paramedic Journal before publishing elsewhere
  • The researcher(s) must not be in receipt of any other funding associated with this study
  • The College of Paramedics must be acknowledged in all publications and/or conference presentations as having contributed financially to the study
  • Lead applicants cannot have held an award from the College’s Small Grants Scheme in the preceding 24 months.

If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact: Professor Julia Williams, Head of Research julia.williams@collegeofparamedics.co.uk
 

Closing date is September 20th 2020 

Health Equity in England: The Marmot Review 10 years on

This article by Linda Hindle, Deputy Chief AHP Officer for England highlights the key messages in the review report.

04/03/2020

 

On the 24th of February Professor Sir Michael Marmot and the Institute of Health Equity published ‘Health Equity in England: The Marmot Review 10 years on’.

The below article by Linda Hindle, Deputy Chief AHP Officer for England highlights the key messages in the review report.

Disclaimer
The opinions expressed by the various contributors are not necessarily those of the College of Paramedics. The inclusion of a blog does not necessarily imply recommendation of its aims, policies or methods. The College of Paramedics will not be liable for any errors or omissions in this information nor for the availability of this information.