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Winning Woman – Sonja Tonkin

Celebrating International Women’s Day this month, we salute Sonja Tonkin, Clinical Co-ordinator, ER24 Contact Centre, who helps save lives every day.

Have you always wanted to be an involved in emergency medical services? 

The great thing about nursing is that you have so many avenues and opportunities. When I started out, I thought I might be interested in theatre, or working in a clinic, but soon realised routine isn’t for me. I always knew I wanted to go into an exciting field, but never imagined I’d be involved in emergency medical services.

How did you end up specialising in critical care? 

Being curious is part of my personality. My philosophy is: “You can always know more than what you do now”. After completing my community service year in a primary healthcare clinic, in a very small town – one street, with a post office, church, garage and school – I worked in the intensive care unit (ICU) and newborn intensive care unit (NICU). This was when I truly started appreciating how unpredictable life can be, and how quickly things can change.

After some time in NICU, I thought I would focus on premature neonates, but I also didn’t want to stay in only one field. I then returned to ICU and worked some shifts in the emergency room. I soon realised this was the adrenaline rush that I was after, and there was no going back to anything else.

As a woman, do you feel supported by ER24? 

Every single day. The main reason for this is the unwavering support from the amazing leadership team I’m privileged to be part of within the Contact Centre. The support wouldn’t be possible without the guidance and leadership from Shakira Cassim, General Manager: Contact Centres. There’s always power in a pack. A woman alone has power, but collectively we have impact. As a team, we work hard, we find ways to raise each other up and respect one another for our unique skills and knowledge. We manage to have a lot of fun (and laughs) too! In the EMS environment, we deal with tough decisions and immense pressures on a daily basis. I know my ER24 family are always there when I need them.

What have been some of your most interesting assignments/calls? 

One call stands out in my mind. I had just joined ER24 and was required to assist with delivering a baby over the telephone. In the past, I would’ve been able to see and assess the patient – but obviously in this case it wasn’t possible. It was the best feeling knowing I made a difference, that the baby was safe, and the new mother was happy.

What advice do you have for girls dreaming of one day becoming emergency medical services professionals? 

Work hard, but enjoy every minute of it. You’ll have nights of studying where you want to give up, but believe me, the reward of making a difference in someone’s life is worth it.

Don’t listen to anyone who doesn’t believe in you. The only person who has to believe in you, is you – you have to be your own cheerleader at times. However, along the way, you and your study and work family are going to bond over a bedpan, or a pandemic or late-night laughter about the smallest thing. You’re going to come out a stronger person, who will have the privilege to support and assist someone on their darkest day.