Train driver and registered paramedic Jolene Miller has been recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours. The 42 year old from Ingleby Barwick in Teesside has been awarded the British Empire Medal for services to the NHS after she returned to the frontline to work as a paramedic during the first wave of the pandemic.
The medal is given in recognition of service to the community which can include charitable or voluntary activities. Jolene, who was put forward for the award by her employer, Northern Rail, is expected to receive her medal at the Queen’s annual garden party next June.
She said: “When I first found out about the award I honestly thought I was being pranked. I’d missed several emails that had been sent by the Cabinet Office because they had ended up in my junk mail, and I ignored several of their calls because I thought they were from cold callers.
“It was only when someone from the Cabinet Office finally called my home phone that I realised what was happening. To say I was stunned would be an understatement.”
Jolene worked as a paramedic for over 10 years before joining Northern Rail as a train driver in 2018. She admits that the main reason she left the NHS was because she struggled with the toll of shift work. For the last three years she has kept up her registration by working at events through Cipher Medical in Teesside.
When the first wave of Covid-19 struck in March, and Northern Rail scaled back many of its services, Jolene sought permission from her bosses to return to the frontline. They thought it was a great idea and for the next three months Jolene worked one week at Darlington Memorial Hospital followed by one week on the trains.
She explained: “I always knew I couldn’t sit back and do nothing. With the NHS under so much pressure I would have felt too guilty letting my skills go to waste.
“Admittedly, I found the first shift pretty nerve-racking but after that I was fine.”
Working in a triage area of the Emergency Department Jolene’s role focussed on assessing patients as they arrived by ambulance and then directing them to the most appropriate care, all of which helped manage the flow of patients and stop corridors from becoming overcrowded.
She says if she’s needed again during the current wave then she won’t hesitate to help. But for now, she still trying to come to terms with the fact that she’s a recipient of the British Empire Medal.
She said: “It’s pretty surreal because I don’t think I’ve done anything special. I’m very aware that many of my friends in the NHS, who do their jobs day in, day out haven’t been given an award. As far as I’m concerned they’re the ones who need to be championed for the amazing work they do.”