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Philippa Nilsen

BSc (Hons) Paramedic Science and Out of Hospital Care

Prehospital Obstetric and Neonatal Management

Philippa Nilsen enjoyed every part of learning to be a paramedic at the University of Sunderland. She has recently returned and completed a short-course to further her knowledge, and continues to develop her skills as a paramedic for the Yorkshire Ambulance Service.

After completing my A-level studies at sixth form, I admit I had no idea what I wanted to do post-education. During my break from education, I threw myself into full-time work whilst trying to gain specific experience in healthcare practice. Admittedly, I had always been a fan of the BBC series ‘Casualty’, which is probably what first inspired me to investigate the idea of training to be a paramedic. In order to gain vital experience in healthcare, and to see whether this could be the career for me, I undertook a full-time job as an NHS 111 call handler and became a volunteer with the Cleveland Mountain Rescue Team. 

After gaining important skills and experience from these roles, I began to investigate the entry requirements for a place on a paramedic science university course but found that I was short on credits from my A-Level studies. The University of Sunderland was one of the only universities to also consider credits from other accredited courses such as BTEC and access to higher education courses. After completing a distance learning-based access course in allied health professions, I applied and was delighted to hear that I had been offered a place on the September 2018 intake.

When I first started to explore the idea of training to become a paramedic, the University of Sunderland was in its early stages of developing the BSc (Hons) Paramedic Science and Out of Hospital Care course. This course delivered paramedic training in a way that would reflect the evolution of the role from the traditional ambulance setting to the multitude of career paths now available, such as urgent care, GP surgeries, military and offshore. Sunderland uniquely offered first-hand experience of these career opportunities through placement or as part of a simulation exercise conducted by Sunderland or at an external multi-agency event, which I found exciting. It was the ambitious ideas and empowering attitude of the lecturers and associates who interviewed me that inspired me to choose this university for my training. 

My favourite part of the course had to be the facilities at the University of Sunderland, which are state of the art! Course content was often delivered at Helen McCardle House, which is a mock hospital featuring a bespoke training ambulance and a series of specialist hospital facilities including maternity, children’s, and mental health wards inside. The technology and equipment available at Sunderland, especially the SimMan manikins, gave us the opportunity to put theory into practice and prepared us for performing certain clinical skills when on placement. 

My advice for prospective students is go for it…but be prepared to work for it! Studying this course gave me a wealth of knowledge and skills required for the role of a paramedic, but this did not come without hard work, but staff and students are always available to support you. Outside of academic study, the university has a variety of societies and activities available to students. Going to university can provide you with an opportunity to try something new, and although I initially joined the university netball team to meet new people and make friends, after my three years I developed greater confidence in both playing the sport and in myself. This led me to become president of the society in 2021 and an advocate for mental wellbeing during the covid-19 pandemic, and the story of the team’s success was covered by the local newspaper, as well as the university.

At my graduation I was delighted to hear I had achieved a First-Class Honours degree, but also that I had been awarded the Faculty Prize for Highest Achiever in Paramedic Science. It was an honour to receive this award, but it would not have been possible without the continued support of my fellow students and lecturers. One lecturer encouraged me to submit my article 'Homelessness in the aftermath of Covid-19' to the Journal of Paramedic Practice, and it was published in 2021.

Since graduating I have had a fantastic start to my career as a paramedic, working for the Yorkshire Ambulance Service in York. Studying at the University of Sunderland taught me to continuously search for any opportunity to learn and in my two and a half years of practice I have completed several additional modules and in-house training exercises. These include, the Edward Jenner Leadership Program, Care of Minor Illnesses and Injuries at the University of Cumbria, and the Specialist Operations Response Team (SORT) with Yorkshire Ambulance Service. I have also returned to Sunderland University last year to complete an additional short course in Pre-Hospital Obstetrics and Neonatal Emergencies.

My overall experience of studying at the University of Sunderland was fantastic! Although my three-years of study felt like a whirlwind at the time, I look back now with fond memories of the experiences I had and the friends I made.  There is so much more to this university than studying, the Paramedic Science and Out of Hospital Care course is innovative and inspiring for someone wanting to become a paramedic and this course teaches you that there is so much more to this career path than managing road traffic accidents and treating heart attacks. You learn fundamental skills in leadership, teamwork, communication, academic writing and interprofessional working (to name a few), which are especially valuable as the importance of the role in healthcare practice continues to expand."

Published 4 March 2024

Read Philippa's published article 'Homelessness in the aftermath of Covid-19'

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