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Pooja’s story

Programme - Health and Social Care with Surrey University

Started volunteering - 2014/15

Area of expertise - Paramedic practice

Being a mentor for Brightside allowed me to tap into my passion for diversity, inclusion, and advocacy. It brings me joy to think I’m helping to shape the careers of the people I’m connecting with and supporting them to reach their potential.

Even back in 2014, nearly ten years ago, the Brightside platform was pretty good. It was really easy to fit online mentoring in around my studies and placement, and my packed uni social life. It’s like texting a friend, how long does that really take you? The reminders are friendly rather than pushy, and they’re really helpful.

I started mentoring with Brightside as part of a Surrey University summer school. I was an ambassador at uni and helped out with their widening participation events regularly.

It was also a great opportunity for me to promote the paramedic career pathway. Lots of young people want to be nurses or midwives but don’t consider being a paramedic. I was the same. I knew I wanted to work in healthcare but being a doctor or nurse didn’t really appeal to me. I was sitting on a bench talking about it with my brother when an ambulance came past and he said, what about working on one of those?

I was lucky to have an uncle who worked in A&E who I could speak to about it and he put me in touch with some paramedics. It really fits with who I am: I like to be out and about helping people. I love the fact that Brightside allowed me to help people out the way I was helped when I was younger.

I gave my mentees advice on how to get experience before they applied. It’s hard because you can’t do work experience in an ambulance if you’re under 18, but you need experience to apply for the super-competitive paramedic science course. I’d volunteered in a hospice and a nursing home so I told them about that and suggested  volunteering with St John’s Ambulance. One of my mentees volunteered in a hospital after that and it really strengthened her application.

I also like to manage their expectations: doing a shift isn’t always what they’d imagine. A lot of the time you discharge patients at home with a referral to their doctor or self-care advice.

I ended up meeting one of my mentees completely by accident a few years later. They walked into the ambulance station I was working at and we got chatting and she asked if I was a Brightside mentor. She still remembered my name five years later! She became a paramedic and was studying at Surrey. It was great to see in real life how much of a difference my advice had made to her life. I love mentoring, but you don’t always get to see the other side once the projects have ended, but this time I did!

It felt amazing to see the impact I’d had. It made me feel all warm inside, and like the world is bigger than me. If I can have a positive impact on one person and they can impact one other person, it creates a huge ripple effect, even if it feels small in that moment.

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