Women of GNAAS – Dr Rachel Hawes OBE

“Being able to give immediate care to people is incredibly rewarding.”

Dr Rachel Hawes OBE is a Consultant in Anaesthesia and Pre-hospital Emergency Medicine at the RVI and an Army Reservist, as well as an Emergency Doctor with the Great North Air Ambulance Service.

Dr Hawes headed up the “Blood on Board” project in the North East and Cumbria for GNAAS, working alongside Northumbria and Cumbria Blood Bikes and Newcastle Hospitals NHS Trust. “Blood on Board” means that, for the first time, life-saving transfusions can be delivered in the immediate aftermath of an injury, rather than having to wait until the patient arrives at the Emergency Department.

What made you choose a career in medicine – and why pre-hospital care?
At school I loved science, but I wanted to do something more practical and help people. Medicine seemed like a great way of combining science and problem solving with helping people.

I’ve always liked critical care and had experience of trauma care from my time in the Territorial Army (TA). Being able to give immediate care to people is incredibly rewarding.

What do you love about your job?
No two days are ever the same. You get to meet interesting people and face challenges every day. And there’s such incredible teamwork.

What are you most proud of achieving or accomplishing in your career?
I’m very proud of the Blood on Board service. I was able to bring my experiences in the military in Afghanistan to the NHS and GNAAS, and we’ve saved countless lives across the North East and Cumbria since it’s been put into practice. It’s amazing being able to help people.

How did it feel to be awarded an OBE in the New Year’s Honours list?
It was a total shock. I’m honoured, but it was a total shock. It’s so nice to be recognised but it wasn’t done alone. It’s important to say that there was a fantastic team working on the introduction of blood and plasma transfusions.

Do you think the landscape has changed or is changing for women looking to enter the pre-hospital care environment?
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a woman or a man, it’s all about ability and enthusiasm. As long as you’re motivated, you’ll be great.

Do you think there are any hurdles that might prevent women from applying for a role in medicine or emergency care?
In my experience, working in anaesthetics and pre-hospital care is perfect because the role is very flexible. In comparison to a ward where you might be looking after the same patients day after day and you’ve got responsibility for that patient on a long-term basis, we can deliver immediate care to the patient and then hand over that responsibility.  If you’re off, it doesn’t affect the patient’s care, so it’s perfect for someone with a family.

Any advice for people seeking a career in PHEM?
Pick something you love and go for it. You will get there as long as you’re determined. Other people will help you get there. Be friendly, and take advice from people. It takes a long time to train so make sure you love what you’re doing and keep going.

International Women’s Day takes place annually on the 8th March. Join in the conversation using #FEMinPHEM.

To find out more about GNAAS pre-hospital courses, visit the training section of our website.

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