Doctor flies through ‘sign-off’ day

GNAAS doctor Vicky Ashton interviewed for a position at our charity only nine weeks after giving birth to her daughter. After ten months at GNAAS she’s recently passed our charity’s gruelling sign-off process.

Dr Vicky Ashton, 35, from Northallerton, had just welcomed a baby girl into the world when she saw GNAAS were recruting for new doctors. Following a successful interview and assessment day, she started training with our charity on a part-time basis in January this year, as part of her ‘return to work’ following her maternity leave. Fast forward to October, and Vicky has now passed our charity’s rigorous ‘sign-off’ day with flying colours, meaning she is no longer a trainee.

We chatted to Vicky to find out more about her ‘sign-off’ day and her career so far…

What career path did you take to become a doctor and what is your current job outside of GNAAS?

I grew up in Yorkshire and I didn’t come from a medical family. My Dad was a hairdresser when I was growing up and that was my first job. I think I was about nine years old when I announced I wanted to be a doctor. I had watched a lot of BBC’s Silent Witness and thought I wanted to be a forensic pathologist but decided I preferred my patients alive by the time I got to medical school! I went to University of Manchester for my medical degree and originally also studied a Global Health Masters with plans to do Disaster Response Medicine; but by the time I started working as a doctor I found I enjoyed Anaesthetics and Critical Care more and spent almost six years in London training in that and doing Events Medicine work before relocating back to the North of England in 2020. I am now working as a Senior Registrar in Anaesthetics and Critical Care both at James Cook University Hospital and in the Army Reserves.

Why did you want to work for GNAAS?

I have wanted to work in pre-hospital for a long time so when I relocated back to the North of England, GNAAS was the obvious choice – they are an amazing, inspiring, supportive team and they set the bar high! I wanted to be a part of that and learn from everyone here so that I can deliver the best for the patients we look after.

How have you found your time at GNAAS so far? Any particular highlights?

I have loved my time at GNAAS so far – although it has definitely felt like a bit of a whirlwind! My daughter was only a couple of days old when the job advert went out and nine weeks old when I turned up for the interview and assessment day so learning to be a Mum and training for GNAAS has all happened at the same time for me and I am sure any working mum can understand the juggle! Highlights so far have been working with and learning from the rest of the team, teaching on the courses that GNAAS run and of course enjoying the view from the helicopter!

Could you talk me through the sign-off day?

It’s a high-pressure day and there is a lot of build-up that goes into the day itself – not least lots of people asking you about what you are planning to make everyone for breakfast on the day….! I told everyone they were getting a multipack of cereal so I think the sausage sandwiches I made ended up being a welcome surprise – they certainly didn’t touch the cereal…

After breakfast, I sat three written exams and then went on to three complex simulated scenarios. The first was a single vehicle road traffic collision with two adult patients, the second was a seven-year-old child with a serious head injury and the third was a five-year-old child in cardiac arrest. Some of the operational team were acting as family members and other services on scene so it felt like there were lots of spectators to add to the performance pressure! The final stage of the assessment was a ‘show and tell’ on how to find and use different pieces of kit and equipment we carry, which the CEO popped in to watch as well! I was exceptionally nervous and have never been one to want to be centre stage, so I found the performance element of the assessment really tough and definitely felt myself getting flustered. It was all done by 2pm though and I was definitely relieved it was all over!

How did it feel to be told you’re signed off?

In the run up all my family and friends were so proud of me, they all kept telling me I was going to pass, but I definitely wasn’t as confident myself, despite having worked really hard, so I don’t think I quite believed it when it happened to be honest. I didn’t think my simulations had gone well at all to the extent that I was disappointed in how I had performed so it definitely took quite a bit of time for the news to hit home…!

Did you do anything to celebrate?

I went home for Mummy cuddles, watched some Peppa Pig, was presented with several imaginary cups of tea alongside my daughters’ toy owls and then we all went out for a late afternoon walk around Nosterfield Nature Reserve with our labrador Poppy!

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