‘Angels in the Orange Coats’

Panic attacks, unconscious students and drug incidents: these are just a few of the situations UoY graduate Hannah Greenwood had to deal with when she was Team Leader for YUSU’s volunteering project, NightSafe.


NightSafe was established in 2014, and involves student volunteers taking to the streets during YUSU’s student club nights and events to make sure people are safe, comfortable and hydrated.

We only spoke to Hannah over the phone, but even then it was obvious that she’s going to become a great clinical psychologist: she’s bubbly, mature and acutely aware of other’s feelings. Her ambition to go into this field of work is the main reason she got involved with NightSafe as it provided her a ‘test run’ of how she’d cope working under pressure and with vulnerable individuals in distress. But how did Hannah come to know that this service existed?

‘I first discovered it when I got too drunk and had to actually use the service myself!’

It was a few drunken nights out in Hannah’s first year where she first came into contact with the project. ‘They gave me some flip flops when my heels broke, gave me and my friends some water and also managed to persuade me to get off the floor and into a taxi home!’

‘It’s a huge misconception around those who work for NightSafe actually. People wrongly assume that the volunteers don’t drink or, if they do, they’re perfectly responsible with it all the time. That’s not always true for everyone - we’re all human!’

We spoke to Hannah to find out more about the reality of being an ‘angel in an orange coat’....


What was your proudest achievement whilst working for NightSafe?

As Team Leader, I was responsible for our AED (automated external defibrillator). I had to make sure it was working properly and that it was always with us during shifts - and not lose it in Fibbers!

There was a particular night where a distressed student came to us in need. It turned out they were having a panic attack. They quickly lost consciousness and stopped breathing. I called 999 and prepared myself to perform CPR, and it’s the only time where we nearly had to use our AED. Thankfully the student eventually began breathing again. I was proud of myself for remaining calm, organising the team, remembering my training and being able to relay the correct information to the paramedics when they arrived and took over.


That sounds pretty scary - were you scared?

No, not really because NightSafe provide you with loads of training to make sure you know how to react under pressure. I had had Enhanced First Aid training, so was able to properly monitor their breathing whilst we waited for an ambulance. We also always worked in teams of three - you never separate or lose sight of one another. So I always had a really strong team of volunteers for support throughout any shift.


Did you ever deal with violence or verbal abuse on shifts?

It sometimes happened, but not very often. Whenever I’ve seen a student become violent, I just try to contextualise their situation. You know, separate their actions from the person. I don’t know what they’re going through personally, and we never judged anyone that we helped.

In a situation where someone is being violent, the most important thing for us to do was look after our team’s safety. You’re never expected to put yourself in danger in order to try and help another. We receive training on how to de-escalate situations by YUSU’s DoorSafe - but again, we never put ourselves in danger.

Working with NightSafe definitely built my emotional resilience, which is useful for both clinical psychology and just everyday life!


What are your plans now you’ve graduated from York?

I am currently a Trainee Clinical Psychologist in the NHS and I am studying for my doctorate in Clinical Psychology at the University of Hull, and then I’ll be fully qualified as a Clinical Psychologist! I’m hoping to then go travelling for a bit and explore the world – which will be a welcome break from 6 intense years of studying!

In the long term, I’d love to open up my own Clinical Psychology practice one day!


What was the best part of the role?

Other than being in a great team, I’d say the training you receive. When I was there I trained in first aid, homelessness awareness, river safety, de-escalation and loads more - all for free. The buzz you get after helping a vulnerable person travel home safely is also amazing – I found it so rewarding and came out of every shift feeling like I’d really made a difference.


What was the worst part of the role?

The rain and cold! Especially at 2:00 in the morning!


Do you have any advice for those considering joining NightSafe?

Try it! Do it! If you’re kind of interested but scared to commit, email the committee at [email protected] and ask if you can go on a ‘shadowing shift’ - meaning you can follow a team on a night out and get a feel for what it involves.

Once you’re a volunteer, you’re never allocated shifts: you choose them, meaning you can work it around your studies/social events.

It’s the best thing I did at university, the volunteers are amazing and the perspective you gain is incredibly valuable - for any career path! I honestly wish I’d started it in my 2nd year, not just my final one!

NightSafe are always welcoming new student volunteers. If you’d like to find out more, click here.