Every year, a new cohort of Doctors and Critical Care Paramedics join local air ambulance charity Magpas Air Ambulance, to provide patients in life-threatening medical emergencies with lifesaving care.
Magpas Air Ambulance Critical Care Paramedic Sarah Walter is one of the charity’s newer recruits, and began shifts on board the Magpas Air Ambulance, forming part of the doctor-paramedic team, in March 2022.
All members of the Magpas advanced medical team are trained in the sub-specialty of Emergency Medicine: Pre-Hospital Emergency Medicine (PHEM), meaning they can provide treatments and procedures (such as general aneasthetics, sedations and surgical procedures) at the scene of a patient’s medical emergency. This gives people the best chance of survival and recovery by bringing hospital-level care to them when time is of the essence.
Sarah, who knew she wanted to be a paramedic from the age of 16, worked to not only achieve, but exceed, that goal for the past decade. She explains, “I was just 21 years old when I qualified as a paramedic. I had to grow up and take on a lot of responsibility at an early age, but I’m always looking for my next challenge, and for me that was getting into the world of PHEM.” Earlier this year, just a week after her 26th birthday, Sarah embarked on what had been a dream of hers for many years.
Sarah continues, “There are so many highs and hard moments that have led me to where I am now in my career. Of course, some incidents we attend are particularly challenging and stressful, but reflecting on these helps me realise that I’ve done everything I can for every patient. A high point in my career was when my crewmate and I were called to a young child who had sadly suffered a stroke, which is very uncommon, but because we were able to recognize it swiftly, we were able to give them a fighting chance. We have since met the family and the child made an astonishing recovery. I am so proud of the work we did that day.”
As Magpas Air Ambulance are only called to the most seriously ill or injured patients in the region, Sarah attends more and more incidents where she will be making a lifesaving difference for patients like this every single day.
Specifically focusing on being a woman in the field, Sarah comments, “What was a predominantly male area of practice has evolved and there are now lots of women in the field! I have had amazing women support me from my very first day as a student paramedic, all the way through to this critical care role. And there are lots of other female role models at Magpas Air Ambulance to help me develop in this next step in my career.
“Of course, being a woman can come with challenges or stigma (especially being a woman who stands at just over 5ft!) but I have been lucky that my gender has never been a barrier in my career. In fact, being a woman is a real honour in this job. We are in a privileged role and are often trusted with sensitive information, and can provide a unique sense of comfort and maintain the dignity of other women in the most difficult of circumstances.
Sarah sums up, “The work we do is highly emotive, highly rewarding and a pleasure to do! Our actions can make someone’s day or even change their life forever. This comes with great responsibility, but knowing the difference I can make through my work motivates me to perform to the best of my ability within the team.
“Working as part of the Magpas Air Ambulance team really is a dream come true.”