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Liz Harris

YAS Paramedic and Clinical Development Manager

Liz Harris YAS Paramedic and Clinical Development Manager

“What does my paramedic profession mean to me? It’s my identity, it’s who I am” says Liz Harris. Paramedic since 2003, Clinical Development Manager for South Yorkshire and Yorkshire Council Member for the College of Paramedics.

“I want to be as good as I can be at my job. And I want to see the paramedic profession develop. For people to see its potential.”

“In the last few years or so people have started to show an interest in paramedics, it’s suddenly like: ‘is this the profession that can save the NHS?’… I’ve been harping on about it for years!”

“No, seriously. It’s good that people are starting to take notice. We’re not just a ‘pad and bandage, drive you to hospital’ service anymore.”

“My job as a Clinical Development Manager is to make sure that the South Yorkshire clinical team is up-to-speed with latest clinical practice and that this knowledge is getting out to every clinician on the front line.

“I feel a real responsibility for patient care. I know what things should be like and what I want us to achieve. It’s about knowledge, yes. But it’s also about respect, getting people on board towards a shared goal. Not just changing minds but winning hearts too.

“Growing up, I wanted to be Quincy off the TV in the 80s,” Liz says. “I knew I wanted to do something to make a difference. But academically, I lost my way a bit. In my early twenties I did lots of different things. I worked for Sheffield Council, I did bar work, I delivered post, I collected Littlewoods Pools and I was a librarian.”

Liz laughs, “I loved being a librarian, in a way it’s like being a paramedic. Finding out about things; putting the clues together; working out what to do next.”

“I still knew that I somehow wanted to make a difference, though. I did voluntary work; then I joined the Patient Transport Service (PTS) in 1997.

“PTS was a great experience. It teaches you how to care and how to deal with a wide variety of people. It gives you good communications skills and develops basic common sense, both necessary to be a good paramedic.”

“I did PTS for three years; then did my emergency medical technician training (EMT). There were some women managers in A&E, but I can’t remember many. It was very male dominated. I did another three years as an EMT then I went on to complete and pass my paramedic course.”

“I remember the day I got my uniform with the word ‘paramedic’ across the back of my shirt. Yes I felt proud; but it was also daunting. It’s like every transition in life. Every time you move up one ladder, you’re at the bottom of the next one. I felt like I had a long way to go.”

So how did Liz go about realising her potential as a paramedic? “I learned off other people,” she says. “I’d see how other people did things and copy the best bits. And at the end of every shift I’d pick one learning point and spend between 10 and 30 minutes building up my knowledge. I put myself through courses in end-of-life care, mental health and paediatrics – things I wanted to develop my knowledge and skills in. I’ve also since returned to academia, I’m currently studying for my MSc and I am an Associate Lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University.”

In 2011 Liz volunteered to become the Yorkshire representative for the College of Paramedics. “It just felt like the right thing to do”, she says. “I’m proud to be a paramedic and I want to see our profession develop.

“Whilst doctors and nurses have developed their professions over the last hundred years, paramedics became a profession almost overnight when we registered with the Health and Care Professions Council in 2003. I’m not sure we were quite ready for that. The College of Paramedics developed to meet the needs of the new profession and has come a long way since thanks to many passionate and enthusiastic people”.

“It’s about developing our standing and getting people to recognise the unique position that paramedics are in. I want us to have credibility alongside other healthcare professions. With the right clinical skills, collaboration and links into other services we can really be an effective gateway for patients’ unscheduled health needs.

And how does Liz see the future for women in the profession? “I do still think there’s a glass ceiling, but that’s more about being a paramedic than a woman” she says. “I’d like to see more women paramedics in senior roles in Ambulance Trusts and that will happen in the future as the numbers of women in the profession now equal that of men.”

“For me, though, what’s important is to make a difference; to be in a role where I can change things for the better. I want to have an influence. Yes that can be top down – but it’s just as important to come from the bottom up too.”