This week, DYW groups across Scotland are taking part in the Key Worker campaign in order to highlight some of the key jobs that are being undertaken during the current COVID-19 outbreak.
Leah Smedley is an HR Advisor for the Scottish Ambulance Service, where she has worked for just under four years. She is based in Inverness, but her role covers the Highlands and Islands region, which includes Orkney. Here, she tells us a bit about her role.
What attracted you to the industry you are in?
I previously worked in the private sector but felt that, while my role had a financial contribution to the company, I wanted to have a role where I felt I was helping others. I joined the Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS) as I am supporting those who are directly helping others.
Describe your day-to-day role.
Every day is different! They can involve investigation interviews, meetings regarding attendance management, disciplinaries or grievances. I may be travelling a few hours to get to a meeting elsewhere in Scotland or I could be in my office all day.
Overall I provide support and advice to managers and employees to ensure processes are followed properly and consistently and we are doing all we can to allow our employees to provide the best patient care.
What kind of training have you done?
Prior to joining SAS I had completed a Masters in Human Resource Management. Whilst in this role I have had training in coaching, attended employment law continuous professional development sessions and have received training that allows me to train others on the importance of a mentally healthy workplace.
What skills have you learned?
Moving from the private sector to the public sector and therefore having more financial limitations or processes to follow through has resulted in my learning to be a lot more patient. I also provide a lot of training and presentations which has greatly improved my presentation skills.
What skills are the most important for you to do your job well?
Resilience. In this role you support many individuals in difficult times such as through bereavement or their own ill health and this can be difficult. However, this may only be one meeting in the day and you have many others to attend or phone calls from others asking for advice so organisation and time management is also especially important.
Finally, listening well and attention to detail to ensure you provide the best support or advice possible and do not miss the small details that could drastically change the outcome or response.
Was there anything about the job that surprised you?
Due to SAS having a smaller HR team there is a lot of responsibility within the role and I have a greater involvement in management meetings and strategic decisions than my previous HR role.
Is there anything unusual about your role?
Due to the clinical work undertaken by SAS I have learnt a lot about clinical procedures. During investigations or meetings a lot of clinical procedures or terms are discussed and I have learned a lot about these, something many HR Advisors do not need any knowledge of.
What’s your favourite part of the job?
As I provide HR support for the Highlands, Islands and North Ambulance Control Centre I travel a lot for work and have visited places I had never been before. This means I see employees a lot and can provide advice and support face-to-face as well as over the phone. It also means I have exposure to a number of roles within SAS and have learned a lot of information that wouldn’t normally apply in a HR role.
Did you always want to pursue a career in this industry?
Honestly, no. I initially wanted to be a lawyer and studied law at university. I then decided that I would like to transfer that knowledge into HR and my first HR role was in the private sector. Whilst there I knew I wanted to move into the public sector or a charity.
What is your advice to school leavers looking to start a job in your organisation?
Focus on extra-curricular activities as well as further studies. While grades and qualifications are important it also benefits applicants to be able to discuss any extra-curricular activities they have been involved in, particularly anything related to the role they are applying for. This also helps when any questions about capabilities are asked as the applicant will have lots of examples from a wide range of sources to use. Also ensure you have researched the role you are applying for and SAS as an organisation as this shows your commitment and enthusiasm for the job.
What is your career goal?
I would like to move into a management role within SAS.
What is it like to be a key worker during the country’s fight against COVID-19?
While I am not on the frontline I have been directly supporting the regional group that has been formed to co-ordinate the response to COVID-19 within the North Region of SAS. This has involved contacting retired staff to ask if they would like to temporarily return to help with the current pandemic, ensuring our staff with underlying health conditions are shielding where necessary, ensuring all staff are supported and regularly communicated with, and ensuring any new guidance is interpreted correctly and applied in the best way to support SAS. While these are tasks I would generally undertake anyway it feels especially important during COVID-19 as everyone’s time has been occupied with tackling the pandemic and I am contributing to this.
Tell us what makes you proud to be a key worker?
I am proud to be a key worker as the work I and all of my NHS colleagues are undertaking is to tackle the pandemic and continue to provide the best service to the public that we can.
To learn more about the jobs available with the Scottish Ambulance Service, visit their website here.