Health, care and hundreds, Ella’s Story
Ella Chandler is a healthcare assistant (HCA) at Solent NHS Trust and Trainee Paramedic for the London Ambulance Service. She shares her Solent story of how working as a HCA in the NHS is one of the most rewarding of her career so far – plus how she juggles her other love in life, cricket, playing for the highly renowned South-Central regional Women’s Professional Cricket team, The Vipers.
“I’ve been working for the past 12 months or so as a healthcare assistant at Solent working on the Bank* and lots of my time has been spent working on the COVID-19 vaccination programme. Within that role I learned so much and got to work with professionals from all kinds of backgrounds, something I hadn’t been able to do previously.
“I was also given the opportunity to help take the vaccination programme into schools. Working with children is more my cup of tea, as I’m used to coaching young adults. Naturally, I jumped at the chance. We know that children and young adults can be apprehensive about vaccinations at the best of times, let alone in a pandemic, so to be there to answer their questions and to make a difference was great.”
Ella explains how her role at Solent has helped enormously with her training to become a paramedic, enabling her to work flexibly whilst gaining valuable skills.
“As well as my HCA role I am currently training as a paramedic with the London Ambulance Service. I’m a student paramedic, applying my trade in real-time circumstances. It’s fast paced and full on, but you learn to work fast and for the best outcome of the patient.
“Working as a HCA has really helped with my paramedic training and for many reasons. Firstly, working on the bank enables me to work flexibly alongside my studies, meaning I can pick and choose when I work. Plus, I am leaning practical, clinical skills that will compliment my emergency care knowledge. But, the biggest pro for me is that I have so much patient interaction.
“I’m learning more about the different kinds of people who are receiving care and using the services that Solent provides, which is useful. Since Solent is a community Trust, I’m learning how that model of care fits in with the wider system and I’m helping to make a difference to people’s lives, keeping them well and as independent as possible, rather than going into hospital – a real different view when compared to working with the ambulance service as unfortunately sometimes, hospital is the best place for them.
“I get to rub shoulders with all sorts of trades, like doctors, mental health specialists, and physiotherapists which is so beneficial and it’s helping me build relationships.
“I think the most challenging thing for me working as a HCA at first was finding my feet and what was expected of me, but my training was exceptional, and I have always felt valued and supported. At Solent I always have someone to lean on and to learn from and I’m so grateful that I have had that experience.”
And for Ella, helping people runs in the family.
“My mum has always been a nurse, but it was never my intention to go into nursing. I’ve always wanted to do something fast paced and the emergency services and pre-hospital nature of care appealed most to me.
“It sounds cliché but helping people has always been second nature to me and I’ve done a lot of charity work, specifically to help raise awareness around health issues, specifically HIV in Africa through the Cricket without Boundaries initiative. The charity provides awareness and education in Africa and empowers women and girls to play sport and break down inequalities. I’ve spent time both in Rwanda and the UK to do this. The charity also educates male role models to coach these girls in Africa and improve their quality of life if they are living with HIV.”
Being able to juggle both her professional sporting career whilst working in the NHS is something that’s important to Ella, but she feels supported through the Trust to help achieve her personal and professional goals.
“I’ve always been very sporty, and played football when I was younger, but found that in the winter I had nothing to do, so I went to train for indoor cricket and loved it. From there I joined a local team, realised I was quite good at it and went on to play representative cricket for Hampshire.
“I was then given the opportunity to play for Southern Vipers, which encompasses Hampshire, Sussex and the other minor counties in the South. The team then tuned professional couple of years ago, and we’ve been really successful. Sports and healthcare are very similar as you know how important teamwork and connection with each other can be and you are all working towards one common goal.
“I feel really grateful being able to juggle my two loves, and Solent and the Ambulance service have been really supportive of me doing so. It’s so important that you can bring your whole self to work and are encouraged to do the things that mean the most to you.”
Finally, Ella shares her advice to anyone who might be thinking about embarking on a career in health care.
“I think working in the health service as a HCA is so rewarding but unfortunately, the role isn’t always shouted about. You get to interact with so many different people and it’s the little things you can do, like having a conversation and finding something out about the patient that maybe the doctors haven’t been able to find out as of yet, being that support which makes a real difference to their care and ultimately their lives.
“I am so glad that I jumped at the opportunity to join 12 months ago. I’ve learned so much which I can take into future clinical practice. If you’re not sure about becoming an HCA I would say just go for it – it may seem like a small qualification, but it can open so many doors to a possibility that you might not have even thought about.”
*Bank refers the temporary staffing service run by Solent NHS Trust, more information on Bank healthcare assistant roles, like Ella's can be found here: https://recruitment.solent.nhs.uk/