A new generation of lifesavers are ready to get to work following a partnership between North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) and the University of Sunderland.
The team is the first in a long line of freshly university-trained paramedics ready to help address the national shortage.
NEAS and the university have worked in partnership to develop the bespoke specialist training programme which is now helping train the new recruits.
The first 19 started their course on 8 September 2016 and have now successfully completed two years of study.
The life-savers were the first to have access to the university’s Sciences Complex Phase II and the Living Lab - with its interactive learning facilities.
The students are employed by NEAS, allowing them to balance studying with working their operational shifts. And the graduating cohort say they could not have asked for a better two years to get them ready for their new roles.
Denise Bridge, from Newcastle, has spent 10 years with NEAS, first as an emergency care assistant, then as a technician, and says she’s always had the confidence that a paramedic clinical lead was there to act as her “blanket of support”.
Now, after two years of hard work, she’s part of the first cohort to qualify from the University of Sunderland’s Paramedic Practice HE Diploma, and she will now be the one acting as the “blanket” for others as she prepares to take the lead on board the ambulance, thanks to the knowledge and confidence she’s gained while on her course.
She said: “The course has been an incredible personal challenge, balancing a full-time job with my studies, and I’m relieved I’ve got through it. The academic side of the course didn’t come easy, and there was the added pressure that I would breeze through it because I already worked for the ambulance service, but you have to believe in yourself. This is not the type of career you can do unless you love it.”
Caroline Thurlbeck, Director of Strategy, Workforce and Transformation at NEAS, said: “Training to become a paramedic is intense and challenging but it is also one of the most rewarding opportunities available. Our employees are able to make a real difference, day in day out, to our patients across the North East.
“On behalf of all at NEAS, I would like to congratulate our first cohort and look forward to watching their careers continue to flourish within our service.
“Future entry requirements are changing nationally for the paramedic profession but having been able to offer this programme in partnership with the University of Sunderland has allowed us to provide a significant number of staff the opportunity to progress their paramedic careers.