New chapter for next generation of paramedics
First cohort of paramedic apprentices now in the classroom
The next generation of home-grown life-saving paramedics have set out on the next chapter of their careers thanks to a new in-house apprenticeship course at North East Ambulance Service (NEAS).
Run in partnership with Teesside University, the new three-year BSc (Hons) Paramedic Practice degree apprenticeship programme, which is open to internal applicants only, was overwhelmed with applicants to the first cohort – with more than 200 applications for just 20 places.
The first cohort entered the classroom this week and will now undertake eight weeks of classroom training before starting their first run of frontline shifts.
This new course builds upon a long-standing relationship with Teesside University, offering work placements for the university’s degree programme students alongside students from the University of Sunderland.
Helen Ray, NEAS Chief Executive, said: “Working at North East Ambulance Service is more than just a job; we strive to offer a career for life.
“Although we have been up to full establishment for paramedics for more than 18 months now, it’s vital that we’re able to sustain a healthy pipeline of paramedics into the future, as well as being able to offer opportunities for our employees to develop.
“This new course allows us invest and develop our workforce by enabling them to progress their careers without the need to leave the Trust, whilst growing our own paramedics through a regular intake, on top of the graduate paramedics we already accept from our successful partnership with Teesside University and the University of Sunderland.
“I wish them every success and look forward to seeing them out on the road in their new epaulettes soon.”
Karen Gardner, head of workforce development, who has developed the course alongside the university, said: “Training to become a paramedic is intense and challenging but is also one of the most rewarding careers available.
“Being an apprenticeship rather than a traditional degree programme allows us to bridge the gap between academia and practical knowledge by offering more exposure to all types of incidents within the pre-hospital care setting prior to becoming a registered paramedic through on-the-job training.
“This course has been several years in the making and has been no easy feat but, as a qualified paramedic myself, it’s something I’m really passionate about and I’m so proud to finally be able to see our first cohort of paramedic students in the classroom ready to start the next chapter of their careers.”
Linda Nelson, Associate Dean (Enterprise and Business Engagement) of Teesside University School of Health & Life Sciences, said: “Working closely with employers to ensure our graduates have the necessary skills to make a real impact in the workplace is central to Teesside University’s mission.
“Therefore, we are delighted to have been able to develop this paramedic apprenticeship in partnership with the North East Ambulance Service.
“The vital role that paramedics play within our communities cannot be overstated and we are proud that NEAS has chosen to partner with us Teesside University to help train the next generation of paramedics.”
Having spent the past 11 years in our Emergency Operations Centre (EOC), most recently in training health advisors, 48-year-old Catherine Fish is swapping her headset for a stethoscope.
“I have been extremely proud to work in the EOC for many years, and to have this chance to become a paramedic is incredible,” she said. “To be able to learn and work towards a qualification whilst gaining valuable experience in the role is a wonderful opportunity for me.
“I just can't wait to start and am looking forward to learning all the skills I'll need to help people in their moment of need.”
James Atkinson, aged 30, joined NEAS four years ago as a clinical care assistant, having been previously employed as a maintenance electrician at Redcar Blast Furnace as well as roles with Great North Air Ambulance and the BBC.
He said: “My role as a clinical care assistant has taught me many valuable skills through working with some remarkable colleagues in challenging situations.
“I feel very privileged to obtain this place and excited to start. I know there will be challenges ahead, but I am looking forward to learning from those experiences in order to meet the standard expected.”
Prior to joining NEAS as a clinical care assistant, based in Stanley, five years ago, 42-year-old Ashley Hawes was a glass cutter and window fitter before joining our colleagues at St John Ambulance, working alongside NEAS on the frontline.
“Becoming a paramedic has always been my goal,” he said. “With approximately 19 years of clinical experience, I felt it was the right time to extend my skills and better my knowledge to enable me to provide patients with the highest level of care I can offer.
“I feel very fortunate to be in this position and grateful for the chance to become a paramedic. I also feel very proud of myself and believe hard work pays off.
“I’m excited about what is ahead over the next three years and look forward to the challenge. I can’t wait to get started!”
The two years’ experience 22-year-old Lauren Kay gained working as a 111/999 health advisor within our Emergency Operations Centre (EOC), has stood her in good stead for her new role as a student paramedic apprentice.
“I’ve always been at my happiest when caring for others and I took an interest in medicine from a really young age,” she said. “I didn’t realise how cool the ambulance service is until I became a health advisor, and I wanted to be on the frontline of the awesome service NEAS provides. The apprenticeship provided an opportunity to pursue a dream that was otherwise completely out of reach for me financially and I grabbed it with both hands!
“I’m feeling a real mix of nerves and excitement! I’m sad to be leaving the EOC behind as the people I’ve met and worked with have been amazing. The EOC is like a massive family, everyone has been so supportive and I’ve learned an awful lot from taking calls. I’m really looking forward to the next challenge as a student paramedic and I feel immensely lucky to be able to do it with NEAS.”
Mark Stoker, aged 30, was working as a graphic designer when his father sadly passed away, leading to a career change in the emergency services, initially in the police before joining NEAS 18 months ago as a clinical care assistant based in Bishop Auckland.
“I applied for the apprenticeship to expand my skill set and knowledge base, thus, enabling me to become a greater asset to the ambulance service and provide a greater level of care when faced with life threatening emergencies.
“I hope I can one day possess the skills and knowledge of the paramedic crew that cared for and treated him in his hour of greatest need, I believe it is my purpose to one day do the same for others in theirs.
“I understand the hard work begins now and I believe my clinical care assistant apprenticeship has provided me with an excellent foundation to build on. I’ve had the pleasure of working with some fantastic colleagues over the past 18 months, some of which I now know as good friends! Their support, guidance and encouragement has enabled me to gain valuable knowledge and experience required for the role. I can confidently say I have taking learning from everyone and grown because of it.
“I am feeling excited to begin the course and take on the new challenges and experiences ahead. It is without question an amazing opportunity that I am very grateful for!”
Grace Dunn, aged 24, has been working out on the road as a clinical care assistant, based at Pallion station, for two years.
She said: “Since I started working at NEAS, I gave myself the goal of qualifying as a paramedic, and used my time as a CCA to get experience to be able to apply for the apprenticeship. It’s a really good opportunity to progress within the service and learn on the job too.
“ I was so happy when I found out I’d been successful in my application, as I knew how competitive the process was, and I never thought I would get the position!
“I am really excited to get started with the apprenticeship, and I feel like the start date has come round so fast. It’s an amazing opportunity and a really good way to learn."
Bishop-based Katie Yeo, aged 29, has spent the last three years working as a clinical care assistant having had a varied career history which included being a carer, a dog walker and a patient transport driver.
“Being a paramedic is a life-long goal,” she said. “I want to make a difference to people's lives every day and do what I do best – help people.
“I’m feeling a bit apprehensive but overall excited and looking forward to getting stuck in!”
Like many of our student paramedic apprentices, 50-year-old Mark Brockhurst brought a wealth of lived experiences with him when he joined NEAS in 2019 as a clinical care apprentice, based at Blucher station.
He said: “I chose to apply via the apprenticeship route as I feel it gives better on the job learning.
“I feel proud and privileged to be part of the first paramedic apprenticeship course. I’m excited and looking forward to the challenge of learning new skills and knowledge.”
Josh Plumpton, aged 32, joined NEAS as a clinical care assistant, based at Pallion station, after serving 13 years in the British Army (1st Bn Coldstream Guards).
He said: “I initially wanted to join the service as a paramedic, however after evaluating options and looking at routes into the role, I was advised by people in the Trust whom I knew and a careers advisor that the clinical care assistant role would be a good way to gain experience and see if the service was for me. After gaining experience and understanding the roles available to paramedics within NEAS, I was keen to progress and develop more skills.
“I feel extremely fortunate to be in the first cohort to undertake this training. The nerves are kicking in due to the length of time being out of education but so far I have been well supported with my continuous professional development within NEAS and I’m very keen to get started.”
Jasmine McNaught, aged 26, joined NEAS as a dispatch officer, dispatching our ambulances, three years ago after leaving her role on the Children’s Healthy Weight Programme.
“Since beginning my first role at NEAS I have experienced first-hand the impact the service has on the local area,” she said. “Moreover, the challenging circumstances which has presented the ambulance service in the past 18 months makes me incredibly proud to be able to join a profession which has shown such courage throughout the COVID pandemic.
“Having the opportunity to take a more active role in making a difference to people's lives in the community is something I am really looking forward to.
“I am really excited to get stuck in, especially to begin learning new skills and knowledge and put them into practice eventually in the ‘real world’.”
Megan Lambert, aged 21, joined NEAS two years ago as an ambulance care assistant, supporting the patient transport side of our service from our base at Lanchester Road Hospital.
”I applied for the apprenticeship as I wanted to further my career and better myself in a career that I’ve wanted for a while,” she said.
“I was ecstatic when I found out I’d been successful, I couldn’t believe it! I’m feeling excited and nervous to start.”
Darlington-based clinical care assistant Ellie McIntyre, aged 43, joined our service 12 years ago, having previously worked in a care home.
She said: “I wished to progress my career and the paramedic apprenticeship allowed me to do this with a young family.
“I’m proud to be on the course. I’m feeling nervous but excited about the new challenges ahead.”
Former health advisor Linzi Corbett, aged 35, has most recently been supporting our patients on the road as a clinical care assistant, based in Ashington.
“Since joining NEAS my ambition was always to become a paramedic,” she said. “The apprenticeship route is a fantastic opportunity to allow me to achieve this and I feel very privileged to have been selected from such a large pool of high quality candidates.
“I am excited to get started. I am aware it is going to be a demanding three years, but I am determined to be successful.”
Tom Hodge, aged 27, joined NEAS 18 months ago supporting our emergency planning and resilience team as our capacity co-ordinator.
“I’ve wanted to be a paramedic from a young age, but thought I’d go and get some life experience first,” he said. “When the apprenticeship opened, it seemed like a great opportunity and the right time to progress my career. I am very grateful for the opportunity to be one of the first people to go through the apprenticeship.
“I’m excited to get started and meet everyone else on the course – I think the nerves will start to kick in soon though as it’s a total change of career.”
Rhiannon Haley joined NEAS four years ago as a 111/999 health advisor before going out on the road as a clinical care assistant in Wallsend.
She said: “Having worked as a 111/999 call taker and a CCA, the apprenticeship offers the next step and a new challenge.
“The opportunity to gain a funded degree whilst working alongside is great for my lifestyle and I'm excited to further develop my learning. Bring on the next three years!”
Former British Airways flight attendant Ellise Winters, aged 23, joined NEAS three years ago as a clinical care assistant, based in Peterlee.
She said: “I have really enjoyed my time as a CCA, yet felt ready to expand my depth of knowledge and take the next step by applying for the apprenticeship with the goal of becoming a paramedic.
“I’m very grateful for the opportunity I have been given and feel a sense of pride knowing that I was selected out of a great bunch of worthy colleagues who applied. Ultimately, we are all part of a great team.
“I feel ready, eager and excited to get started on this journey. However, like anyone else when starting a new challenge, it always comes with a little nerves.”