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Winning Woman – Tao Carstens

Celebrating national Women’s Day this month, we salute Tao Carstens. As ER24 Southern Cape Branch Manager, she helps save lives every day.

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

Yes. Initially I thought I’d become a doctor and follow the traditional path. But I also knew I wanted excitement. When we had to do work experience during grade 10 and 11 at school, I started exploring different options within the medical field to see what areas I enjoyed. I discovered emergency medical services and enrolled for what was then known as the National Diploma in Emergency Medical Care and Rescue. Once I began studying, I never looked back.

What qualities do you think an ER24 branch manager needs?

I believe continuous self-improvement is key. It’s important to have the ability to listen and understand, rather than simply listening in order to respond. It’s important to be able to see the bigger picture and to find ways of making it work for your branch. I’m a firm believer in the open-door policy. If people have ideas and suggestions, or concerns or queries, they need to come and speak to me. I’m not a one-man band, this is our branch, and we need to work together. I’m working very hard to be a good branch manager and teamwork is a huge part of success. With the ability to listen and work as a team, most things can be accomplished.

As a woman branch manager, do you feel supported by ER24? How and why?

Definitely. I’ve always felt supported by ER24, and I don’t think it’s because I’m a woman. It’s the culture we’re trying to create in the company – support is offered to everyone. When I was still operational, I was supported by my managers. When I wanted to learn more about the business, I was encouraged to develop that interest. My regional manager was also extremely supportive – teaching and guiding me so I could create good career opportunities for myself. Now that I’m a branch manager, I still have enormous support from my previous branch manager (who is now my colleague) along with the regional manager. I also have the support of other management structures. There is a whole management system above the level of paramedic, which I can now access for advice.

What have been some of your most interesting calls? 

I’m always amazed when we arrive on the scene of a terrible car accident and people have walked away unscathed. I also often wonder how some people manage to get themselves into some of the bizarre situations we find them in. One of the most rewarding projects I’ve been involved in was a charity food drive competition between the ER24 branches. It warms my heart when I’m able to give back to my community.

Any current challenges?

When I accepted the position as branch manager, I had to relocate from Cape Town to George. That sort of move always comes with challenges. When I first arrived here, I also had the challenge of building relationships with my team and getting them to trust me. I’m also still adapting to the way the hospitals in the area operate.

What advice do you have for girls aspiring to one day becoming emergency medical services professionals?  The most important thing is to study. Do your research, decide which course is the most appropriate for you and always ask questions! Try to learn from as many people as possible in order to develop and grow. You want an enjoyable career path that allows you to thrive, grow and help others.