Deborah Calverley had talked about being a paramedic for years, but life and having a family had meant it was a distant ambition that she did not think was achievable.
Now the 41-year-old is out on the NHS frontline in the midst of a pandemic, as one of dozens of University of Worcester students out on the road in ambulances across the region.
“I wanted to help, I wanted to be there for people at their most vulnerable times to do what I could for them,” said the mother-of-two. “You come home from a shift and generally you know that you have made a difference, which is why you go into the job. For me it’s just doing what I do regardless of the situation we’re in.”
Deborah responded to the call to work from the West Midlands Ambulance Service, starting out cleaning and restocking ambulances, and then, after a week’s extra training, she joined a paramedic on the road as an Ambulance Care Assistant on a two-person crew. The second year Paramedic Science student is now working indefinitely as bank staff out of the Ambulance Service’s Coventry and Warwick hubs and has been doing three or four 12 hour shifts a week for nearly a month, working with a qualified paramedic. She practises her skills as students would usually do on placement, still under supervision.
“It’s a big responsibility because there are only two of you,” said Deborah, of Stratford-upon-Avon. “You’re not there as a student learning on placement, you have got to step it up. I spoke to a couple of lecturers about it and my husband and decided it was something I very much wanted to do. It was a brilliant opportunity to continue my training. Everyone I have worked with has been very encouraging and happy to let me get on with it and enhance my training, so it has been a really positive experience.”
Deborah says the crew regularly encounter Covid-19 cases, or suspected cases, usually at least one every shift, although this has calmed more recently. “The thought of bringing the virus home to my family went through my mind,” she said. “But the trucks are so well stocked with PPE so we’re very well protected, so it hasn’t been a concern.”
Deborah had been working from home, helping run the family electrical contracting business, but, as her children got older, decided to train as a paramedic.
She said: “It was a conversation I had with my brother-in-law, who’s a nurse. I’ve have known him for 24 years and he said you always wanted to be a paramedic. I know lots [of them] and you’d be great. It was like a lightbulb had gone off, so I started looking into it.
“I like that every day is different, no two jobs are the same, no two days are the same.”
She did an access course, then chose Worcester, convinced by the friendliness of the lecturers and the support she felt it gave to mature students.