“Whilst I still enjoy it and I’m still physically capable of doing the job, I’ll keep going!”
Female ambulance officers were only able to join the service in the early 1980s, more than 50 years after the service began. Starting out as volunteers they were only allowed to work as part of the ‘transport auxiliary’, before the Board changed the recruitment process to award permanent driving officer roles based on merit selection. Marie Larkin became the first female to be taken on as permanent staff and hit the road as an ambulance officer. Now female officers account for over half our front line work force.
With a keen interest in medicine Wendy Baker always had a “secret ambition to work for the ambulance service.” Whilst working for the police as an intelligence officer in the organised crime unit she went on a road day with Wellington Free paramedics and the very next day she put in her application to be a paramedic. She knew that’s exactly what she wanted to do. Wendy started as a volunteer in November 1996 and always worked more than her required weekly shift in the hope she’d be taken on as permanent staff. Back then training came from distance learning, block courses and on the job experience before you was considered for a permanent role. Wendy soon became a qualified paramedic officer and has been enjoying the unpredictability of the job ever since, “you never know what you’re turning up to from one day to the next and that’s what keeps me going.”
A lot has changed in the past 20 years; from vehicles, uniform and crewing to training, equipment, treatment and technology. Attitudes and respect towards female paramedics also changed as society become more accepting of women in the work place, but Wendy says she was never treated any differently by her male colleagues as she was always seen as “just one of the team.”
Wendy is now our longest serving female paramedic, celebrating 21 years’ service this year, with no signs of slowing down. “Whilst I still enjoy it and I’m still physically capable of doing the job, I’ll keep going!”