Spotlight on AACE’s Anti-Racism promises: October 2023




This October as part of the Spotlight on Anti-Racism feature, AACE are sharing the experience of a third-year student paramedic and the barriers faced during his journey.

Josh Spotlight Oct 2023

My name is Josh, and I am currently a third-year student studying to become a paramedic at Anglia Ruskin University. Throughout my three-year degree placement with the London Ambulance Service, I have encountered various barriers and demanding situations that greatly influenced my journey but have made me who I am today.

Each student has a unique story, and I am here to share my story of a student from a diverse background.

‘In a field where only 7% of HCPC registered paramedics identify as belonging to an ethnic group within the UK, the lack of representation is striking. It’s challenging to envision oneself as a paramedic when there is a need for more diversity within the ambulance service and universities. This becomes even more significant, considering that entry into the paramedic profession in the UK now requires a degree. The lack of diversity within my paramedic course indicates the broader picture within the ambulance service. The pathway to becoming a paramedic is through university, either via ambulance trust programmes or directly through academic institutions.

Since becoming a paramedic takes 2 to 3 years, the composition of the future paramedic workforce will inevitably be influenced by the current state of education and training. As we look ahead, it’s imperative that the evolving paramedic workforce is inclusive and representative of the diverse society it serves.

This inclusivity is vital for shaping the trajectory of paramedics within the ambulance services in the coming years. But looking after diverse ethnic minority students is critical. Furthermore, we must emphasise the well-being of ethnically diverse student groups. These students represent the next generation of paramedics who will play influential and transformative roles within the ambulance service. By doing so, they will play a critical part in assisting the next generation of aspiring paramedics in overcoming the same hurdles and problems that they – and I – faced as students.

During my placement, I formed a deep bond with the make-ready team, who guarantee that our ambulances were completely outfitted and operating 100% with the tools we needed to treat patients. I have reflected on this and have learned that our bond was founded not just on identical duties but also on common identities.

Our interactions and communication techniques contributed to a sense of belonging. Among my ambulance trust’s diversity, the make-ready staff stood out as a sign of inclusion. This realisation caused me to consider the importance of representation, especially within the paramedic professional role within the ambulance service.

However, my experience as a student has also exposed me to some instances of racial comments during patient care. Sadly, these comments often went unaddressed, dismissed as confusion, or attributed to the speaker’s age. Colleagues tended to overlook such incidents, contributing them to an environment where such behaviour was tolerated. Additionally, aspects of cultural differences, such as certain foods brought in, were met with raised eyebrows and insensitive comments. Labelling such behaviour as “banter” downplays its potential to perpetuate harm.

However, it’s essential to call out and address instances of racism. What might be brushed off as “banter” can often be hurtful and have lasting effects. Avoiding uncomfortable conversations perpetuates a harmful status quo.

As the culture within the ambulance service evolves, I am optimistic about seeing greater ethnic diversity among paramedics. Promoting diversity within leadership is crucial. Encouraging individuals from various backgrounds to strive for higher positions introduces fresh perspectives and empowers marginalised groups. By confronting the need for more diversity in leadership, we lay the foundation for a more comprehensive and efficient ambulance service.

The absence of diversity poses a challenge when visualising oneself in a particular role, especially in a critical field like the ambulance service. We must ask ourselves how many paramedics from diverse backgrounds hold leadership positions. This question is not intended to belittle those currently in such roles; instead, it underscores the importance of inspiring individuals from varied backgrounds to excel.’

Being a student and seeing paramedics from various ethnic origins who look like me is not typical. For students from an ethnic background, it’s critical to foster a culture in which individuals are compelled to raise their voices when presented with more than simply light-hearted banter – when confronted with racial remarks. As students, our mentors must recognise that we come from diverse backgrounds and that it is okay for them to question and ask about our faith, culture, and experience. To build understanding and harmony, it is necessary to ask questions about cultures, whether familiar or foreign, which should be encouraged and do this within a safe space.

We’ll continue to post our Spotlight updates every other month in our website’s News section and via Twitter at @AACE_Org.

You can find more information about our anti-racism promises, along with messages from all of our Ambulance Trust CEOs on our Stamping Out Racism page.

You can view all of our previous Spotlight on Anti-Racism features here.