A celebration of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion on International Women’s Day 2022: The Irish Paramedicine Education and Research Network (IPERN) launch The Dara Fitzpatrick Award
The Irish Paramedicine Education and Research Network (IPERN) are an inter-professional team of paramedics, nurses, doctors and scientists dedicated to increasing research capacity for out-of-hospital care in Ireland through engagement, education and collaboration. Since the establishment of the network in 2021 IPERN have hosted events on Human Factors, Mental Health, Medical Logistics, Trauma and Paediatrics. On March 8th the IPERN Team launched a new special interest group on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) in celebration of International Women’s Day.
EDI ensures fair treatment and opportunity for all. It aims to eradicate prejudice and discrimination on the basis of an individual or group of individual’s protected characteristics (1). Ireland’s equality laws outlaw discrimination on nine protected characteristics: gender, civil status, family status, sexual orientation, disability, religion, age, race, and membership of the Traveller community (2). While all of these grounds are protected from discrimination in employment this inaugural IPERN EDI event focused on the topic of gender. The Paramedic profession has traditionally been male-dominated and therefore female leadership roles are relatively rare (3). In Ireland across all clinical levels females comprise just 27% of registered pre-hospital practitioners and at the highest clinical level of Advanced Paramedic this falls to just 16% (4). While these numbers have increased in recent years it’s clear that there is significant work to be done with regard to equal representation in the Irish EMS workforce
The IWD event was co-hosted by Dr. Niamh Cummins (Lecturer in Public Health) and Ms. Gráinne O’Shea (Advanced Paramedic). Niamh is the Founder and Chair of IPERN, and Gráinne is an IPERN Committee Member and EDI Lead. To mark the launch of the EDI group Gráinne and Niamh hosted a Panel Discussion titled “Breaking the Bias – The Past, Present and Future for Women in EMS: Perspectives from Ireland, Australia, Canada the UK and the USA. The IPERN Team were joined in this discussion by a panel of inspirational guests including; Prof. Kelly-Ann Bowles (Monash University, Australia), Ms. Cheryl Cameron (McNally Project for Paramedicine Research, Canada), Ms. Gemma Howlett (University of Cumbria, UK), Dr. Ginny Renkiewicz (Methodist University, North Carolina, USA), Ms. Michelle O’Toole (Royal College of Surgeons, Ireland) and Prof. Julia Williams (College of Paramedics, UK). On the day the panellists shared their experiences as women in EMS and discussed wide-ranging topics including bias, discrimination and stereotypes, gender equity in Ambulance Services, female representation and gender quotas, “sticky floors” and “glass ceilings”, the importance of allies and advocates, gender-related research and their hopes for the future of women in EMS.
The IPERN Team were privileged to conclude the IWD event with the very special announcement of a new award honouring the memory of Captain Dara Fitzpatrick. In 2017 during a rescue mission off the west coast of Ireland all crew members of the “Rescue 116” helicopter were tragically lost at sea. During her trailblazing career as a female Search and Rescue Pilot Dara flew over 800 missions with the Irish CoastGuard. The Dara Fitzpatrick Award pays tribute to Dara’s powerful legacy and will be presented annually on IWD to an inspirational female colleague working in the Irish pre-hospital community.
In painting a picture of Dara to our international colleagues EDI Lead Gráinne stated “Dara was an exceptional stand-out female who trailblazed a career for herself and for future females in a predominately male environment. Dara was incredibly brave in the role she undertook as a Search and Rescue Pilot and Captain. She led her team with an ethos of professionalism and equality and a leadership style which encouraged team-work, care and compassion”. The IPERN Team were also privileged to be joined by Dara’s sister, Niamh Fitzpatrick on the day. Niamh said “‘Thank you for naming this award after Dara. She was very proud of her work in the emergency services. As a family, we look forward to presenting the award to the first recipient in 2023’. Niamh also spoke about the values associated with the award and wished to emphasise that compassion and kindness were among the most important qualities valued in a nominee. IPERN Chair, Dr. Niamh Cummins concluded the IWD event by thanking Dara’s family for their support “It truly is an honour for all of us here in IPERN to be involved in preserving the memory of Dara, our “Banríon na Spéire” (Queen of the Sky). We are very proud that Dara’s incredible legacy will live on through our future award winners who will be women of strength and bravery, but most of all women of compassion”. Nominations for the Dara Fitzpatrick Award are now open and can be submitted by email to IPERN999@gmail.com.
Links of Interest
IPERN IWD Event
1. United Nations General Assembly. Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Paris, France; 1948.
2. Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission. Making Rights Real: Understanding Rights and Equality Dublin, Ireland: Government of Ireland; 2015 [Available from: https://www.makerightsreal.ie/understanding-rights/equality/.
3. Mason P. Identifying the barriers to female leadership in Paramedicine. Irish Journal of Paramedicine. 2017;2(1).
4. Pre-hospital Emergency Care Council. PHECC Registration Gender Statistics. Naas, Ireland2022.