International Women’s Day on March 8th is designed to celebrate the achievements of women and drive gender parity – discover what life is like for the female crew members on board our iconic yellow Ambucopter.
With an operational crew of 20 men and 3 women, it is not often that the Charity’s three female crew members are on shift together. When this somewhat unusual occurrence took place, CEO Karen Jobling joined Co-pilot Anna Loake, pictured right, and Clinical Lead Dr Susan Dashey, left, along with paramedic Jane Pattison to mark International Women’s Day.
All four women hold significant positions within the Charity; Karen Jobling has been CEO for the last 2 years, during this time the Charity has seen the new state of the art helicopter – the AW169 come into service, the medical advancement of carrying Blood on Board and being able to undertake remote blood transfusions and, more recently, the announcement to increase the service from 12 to 24 hours later this year.
A former RAF Officer, Karen has over 25 years’ experience in the Charity sector and a very keen interest in aviation.
She said: “It is great to see that once-traditionally male orientated roles such as pilots, doctors and paramedics are increasingly being undertaken by women. Our crew are certainly great role models for all youngsters – both boys and girls, and it would be great to see more female pilots, paramedics and doctors on board the Ambucopter in the future.
“When looking at the role of pilot, I wasn’t at all surprised to hear that as few as 5% of commercial helicopter pilots are female, but we hope that through the exposure of our helicopter and through the service that Anna and the rest of the female crew deliver, many more girls and young women will be inspired to break with tradition and consider a career in aviation. I hold a private pilot’s license myself and it is immensely rewarding and something that shouldn’t be over-looked by women.”
Anna Loake is one of two co-pilots to have joined the Ambucopter crew after the delivery of our AgustaWestland 169 aircraft in June 2017. She has already flown many emergency missions on board the iconic yellow helicopter, landing in everything from fields and carparks to the racetrack at Cadwell Park and next to a swimming pool at the Butlins holiday resort in Skegness.
Believe it or not, flying was not Anna’s first choice of career. After graduating from university, she spent ten years in the fashion industry. It was only by chance that she saw a flier for helicopter lessons one day in her local gym.
She explained: “I was never exposed to aviation when growing up, so a career in this field never occurred to me until that first trial lesson. I soon took up regular helicopter flying lessons, initially as a hobby, but then I started to consider it as something that I could actually do for a living.”
Anna qualified as a commercial pilot in 2006 and went on to work as a flight instructor and corporate charter pilot, before joining the Lincs & Notts Air Ambulance last year.
Dr Susan Dashey is a Consultant in Anesthesia and Intensive Care Medicine and is a vital member of the Lincs & Notts Air Ambulance team, becoming joint Clinical Lead last year.
Susan has a particular interest in pre-hospital motorsport injury care and pre-hospital medicine. In 2011-12, she worked with the Sydney Helicopter Emergency Medical Service in Australia before returning to the UK.
She added: “I am proud to be a member of the clinical crew at the Lincs & Notts Air Ambulance, it is such a rewarding job and no two days are ever the same. I manage to juggle my two roles with a very active three-year-old, two Labradors and a very understanding partner!”
Paramedic Jane Pattison makes up the final female member of the crew. She joined the ambulance service in 2004, before taking up an air ambulance paramedic role with the Charity in 2011. She remains the Ambucopter’s longest serving female crew member.
Jane said: “When I started with the Lincs & Notts Air Ambulance in 2011 I was the only female on the crew. This remained the case up until last year when Anna and Susan joined the Charity. It’s nice to have women to talk to, but when it comes down to it, we are all part of a really close-knit team, men and women who all work exceptionally well together, delivering excellent patient care.”
Join the team for a busy day on-board the Lincs & Notts Air Ambulance
7am – no time to waste and the crew get busy!
The day starts shortly before 7am with the crew arriving at the charity’s operational base at RAF Waddington. The first job of the day is to manoeuvre the 4.8 tonne helicopter out of its hangar and onto the tarmac area where it will stay for the duration of the day, awaiting the call to the next potentially life-saving mission. Thanks to the specially designed ‘heli-lift’, this can be done by just one person and Anna got to work on this as a first priority.
With the helicopter in position and ready to go, they were joined by CEO Karen Jobling for the morning briefing when the crew went through the tasks for the day ahead. The pilots then run through some checks on the aircraft while the medical crew carried out an equipment check to ensure that they had the correct kit on board the helicopter for the shift ahead.
After these vital checks were completed, the crew undertook a daily training scenario in their specifically fitted-out training room. The scenario involved advanced airway management using their interactive SimMan training mannequin, who has a realistic anatomy and can simulate changes in breathing, heart rate, pupil dilation etc. He can also make sounds and respond to medical intervention giving the crew as realistic training opportunity as possible.
The first mission of the day came just before 1pm when the crew were tasked to Bothamsall in Nottinghamshire to a man who had fallen from a ladder and had suffered a trauma to the head. The crew arrived in 10 minutes and assisted a land crew to stabilise the patient before he was taken to Doncaster Hospital by land.
The crew returned to base just before 2pm to fill in paperwork, undertake a de-brief of the mission and clean the inside of the helicopter. The kit was then replenished ready for the next mission before the crew finally had time to take a well-earned lunch break.
The second call of the day, to a road traffic collision in Skegness came in at 3.30pm. It took the crew just 16 minutes to fly to the furthest point from the base on the East Coast. The patient was trapped in a car. Our crew assessed the patient before she was released from the car by the fire service. She sustained minor bruising. The crew returned to base just after 4.15pm.
Upon their return, the crew again completed paperwork, a de-brief and replenished the medical kit. They then swept the hangar and washed the outside of the helicopter, keeping it in tip-top condition, a task most people don’t realise is carried out by the crew.
There was then time for a medical audit and completion of daily reports before the helicopter was put back in the hangar and the doors closed for the night, all ready to open again the next morning when the next shift arrives.