Celebrating our female Heartstarter volunteers on International Women's Day - Great Western Air Ambulance Charity
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Celebrating our female Heartstarter volunteers on International Women’s Day

This International Women's Day, we are celebrating the women that help us teach the next generation of lifesavers.

In 2022, our Great Western Heartstarters (GWHS) volunteers helped teach CPR and defibrillation to 6,469 people at secondary schools and events, with nearly 50 women volunteering to teach this vital skill!

Hannah, Abi and Laura are three of the amazing women that give their spare time to help educate people on how to help save the life of a cardiac arrest victim. We spoke to them about why they take time out of their busy schedules to help us.


Hannah Chorlton

Firefighter — Avon Fire and Rescue

Why did you want to get involved?

I’m a firefighter for Avon Fire and Rescue. I saw an advert asking for Heartstarters volunteers on the intranet at work. I didn’t know GWHS was a thing before that point, but it sounded like a great project.

When I was at school, no one taught me how to do CPR. I think everyone should have the opportunity to learn CPR from a young age.

As a firefighter working shifts, I get some time off. It feels good to do something productive on my days off.

How does being a GWHS volunteer make you feel?

It’s fulfilling seeing the kids learn about something so important. Some take it more seriously than others and are really invested which is great. But even those who are not as invested might come back to it one day having tried it once.

We give the children the knowledge to know how to act in an emergency situation. And knowing what to do builds confidence. I find the children engage most with the hands-on, try-it-for-yourself bits.

As a firefighter, we get training in rescue, trauma and casualty care, and we carry defibrillators in the fire engines. Being a Heartstarters volunteer is a really fulfilling way of being able to use the skills I’ve learned at work to help people in a different way — a preventative way.


Abi Smith

Student Paramedic — UWE

Why did you want to get involved?

I’ve been a student paramedic for two years and will be qualifying as a paramedic next summer (Which is WAY too soon, but also exciting at the same time!!!). I have only started volunteering with GWHS in the last few months, but already I love it and know I will be doing more sessions once exam season is done!

I wanted to join GWHS because of my passion for the educational side of the job. As we know, CPR is a vital skill and can increase the chances of survival for someone suffering a cardiac arrest.

I have a strong belief that everyone should learn CPR as it could potentially save someone’s life!

I do my best to share this skill with others by volunteering with GWHS. I aim to teach CPR to as many students as possible, and maybe even inspire them to become paramedics!

How does being a GWHS volunteer make you feel?

I enjoy being a Heartstarters volunteer because (without sounding too cheesy) you can really make a difference.

Students may one day find themselves in a situation with someone who is suffering a cardiac arrest. The sessions we deliver could be the difference between that patient living or dying, which makes running them so important.

I’m also a massive nerd when it comes to paramedicine so when I find students who are interested in becoming paramedics it gives me an opportunity to tell them all the wonderful aspects of the job, not just the big jobs, but the smaller ones where even a conversation with a lonely patient can make their day.

Being a Heartstarters volunteer gives me a chance to practice my skills, meet new people and make a difference in the community.


Laura Harvey

Trainee Nurse Associate — Southmead Hospital

Why did you want to get involved?

I see the value in teaching children and young people CPR because I understand the beneficial impact it can have on a patient if that young person is first on the scene. Even if they don’t want to perform it themselves, I tell the children to call for help and tell someone else how to do it.

I’ve been volunteering for Great Western Heartstarters for years, way before the pandemic. I’m a trainee Nurse Associate at Southmead (I have a few weeks left) and I do Heartstarters on my day off. I do one session every two months.

We spend an hour with each year group or class, and it can sometimes be a whole day if we train various classes.

We start each session with an introduction about who we are, and we show a video of a cardiac arrest patient’s story. We give a demo of the DRS ABC rules and the recovery position.  And then we put the children into groups for a practical. They like the practical bit!

How does being a GWHS volunteer make you feel?

“It feels good being a Heartstarters volunteer because I can educate young people with a life skill. A lot of the children say afterward that if they see someone in a cardiac arrest they will help or at least feel able to tell someone else to do it. Result!”

A fun thing to do with the children is to play a game at the end – the CPR Relay. We line the children up and place a dummy at the front of the line. The child at the front does thirty proper chest compressions then goes to the back of the line and so it goes on…  If I’m feeling mean I make the teachers do it too.

I enjoy delivering these life skills to the younger generation. You never know, maybe they’ll want to grow up to be doctors in the future.


We also have incredible women in our Critical Care Team. Be inspired by Critical Care Doctor, Jayne McKinlay, or award winning and ground breaking Advanced Practitioner in Critical Care, Vicki Brown.

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