When Claire Gorton accepted a job at NHS Blood and Transplant in Birmingham, she thought it would be a safe but ultimately rewarding role.

The last thing the 35-year-old PA, from Sutton Coldfield, expected was to be caught up in a rush hour shooting drama.

Mrs Gorton and her boss, Neil Reynolds, were stuck in rush hour traffic on Nechells Parkway on September 1, 2004, when they were caught up in the crossfire.

As one of the vehicles, a silver Audi, nearly landed on the car they were in, Mrs Gorton was calling the police instead of panicking.

It is for composure and confidence in a crisis that Mr Reynolds has nominated her for the title PA of the Year.

"Neil was giving me a lift home, I lived in Hodge Hill at the time, and we were stuck in rush hour traffic on Nechells Parkway. It was about 5.30pm," she said.

"Suddenly an Audi flew over Neil's car, I could see its underside as it landed side-ways and clipped Neil's car before forcing its way through the traffic. Then another car came speeding up the middle of the traffic, chasing it.

"I dialled 999 to report the accident to the police but at the time I had no idea they'd been shooting at each other. If I'd realised there'd been gunfire I wouldn't have got out of the car to inspect the damage.

"Obviously this wasn't in my job description, but I was just reacting to what was going on around me. I guess that's from being a PA because you have to be able to think on your feet."

Mrs Gorton, who began working for NHS Blood and Transplant in 2002, loves her job because no day is ever the same.

"I've been working for Neil for about four years and we've a good working relationship, he gives me work that challenges me so my job never becomes boring or monotonous.

"He gives me lots of responsibility and trusts me to keep things going when he's not in the office. I'm really grateful that he's put me forward for this award."

As well as keeping control of Mr Reynold's diary, handling projects and being a team player, Mrs Gorton also found time to sit a top-level IT qualification called a Manager's Certificate.

But the one thing Mr Reynolds values most is his PA's firm grasp of grammar and spelling.

"It may seem old-fashioned but I think that's very important. I am really impressed with Claire. She's the best PA that's ever worked for me - and there have been quite a few," he said.

Mrs Gorton will be hoping to emulate Julie Fox, winner of last year's Birmingham Post PA of the Year competition, who was awarded with the top prize of an all-expenses trip to the sun after judges recognised her outstanding professionalism and ability as a PA.

Mr Reynolds added: "I actually think she's wasted as a PA. With her Manager's Certificate she could pursue a career in IT. The reason I entered Claire into PA Of The Year is because I wanted to demonstrate how highly I think of her.

"I don't know of a better PA to work for me. She makes my life a whole lot easier, and she deserves credit for all that."