Life as a Remote Paramedic

remote paramedic

Mark Crighton: Life as a Remote Paramedic

I’m not going to lie to you, my career as a remote paramedic with Iridia started with the intention of making a “few quick bucks”. I was interested in going up north to work for a little while. I talked to a few guys around the BCAS station and they said Iridia was the company to work for… that was 3 years ago.

I discovered many things while working with Iridia and my career path completely changed. I learned about unbelievable teamwork, exceptional support, and being part of a team where my voice and opinions actually count. It was such a relief to finally be working in a positive environment, where like-minded individuals work towards common goals.

A great part of being a remote paramedic is the adventure. This career had enabled me to see and experience many things that I would never have discovered on my own – from urban adventures to remote wilderness and everything in between. Sometimes just getting to the job site is half the adventure. Making my way through many airports and passing through different towns and cities, all the way keeping an eye out for the closest Starbucks.

remote medical services

The isolation of remote site work is a completely new experience. It becomes a different kind of paramedicine out there in the wilderness. You have a lot more responsibility than you do on the streets – the hospital isn’t a mere ten minutes away. At one of the northern camps, we have added the Mobile Medical Unit (MMU) to the site which has been a very positive experience. Getting to work one on one with a physician has really allowed me to use some skills long forgotten.

I do a lot of prevention education with the crews on the sites, but compared to working on the street there’s more down time. I spend a lot of this time training for races in the camp gym, reading, studying. But it’s still very hard to be away from my family, friends, home, and the beach where I surf. The one thing I am truly blessed with is a very understanding and supportive wife and family, which makes the absence from home a lot more tolerable and coming home that much more special.

British Columbia wildlife

In my opinion one of the greatest bonuses about working in remote areas is the opportunity to see some amazing animals. I have seen animals that most people haven’t seen in zoos. Sightings  from wild buffalo and bears up close (see Iridia’s YouTube page for an amazing bear video ), moose, fox, and others – not to mention wolverines that are not afraid of people and seem to think a MTC is a great spot to hide under regardless of whether or not you need to go get dinner!

There are so many amazing things related to the work, all you need is a little sense of adventure! Working with the team at Iridia has been such a positive experience for me, and I look forward to growing with the team well into the future.

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog post!

Mark Crighton
Remote Paramedic with Iridia



Looking Back on our First Year as Iridia Medical

Brand Launch

This month marks a very special anniversary in our company’s history – being one year since we re-branded from Global Medical Services to Iridia Medical. 

Many of you lived some of that journey with us as we shared with you the triumphs and challenges associated with changing to a new brand identity and bringing that identity to life through new marketing materials, a new website and Social Media presence, new building signage, documents, email addresses, and so on.  The sheer amount of work involved in the re-brand was staggering and could not have been achieved without the collective efforts of the Iridia team and others with whom we engaged throughout the journey. 

So what has our first year as Iridia Medical involved?

We kicked off our year under our new brand with the deployment of our Mobile Medical Unit into a remote oil and gas camp in Northeastern BC.  This has been one of our most innovative projects to date and is an industry first in British Columbia. It allows ill and injured workers in these remote camps to receive, in many cases, definitive medical care which enables them to stay in camp and avoid the hazards of transport to another medical facility; particularly at certain times of the year when extreme weather conditions can make emergency evacuation close to impossible.

We also saw Iridia named as a key partner in two public access to defibrillation (PAD) programs – the BC Heart and Stroke PAD Program and the National AED Program Federal Initiative. The BC initiative will see 450 AEDs and associated training delivered to communities throughout BC.  The national program will see a targeted 3,000 AEDs distributed to recreational facilities, mostly arenas, across the country.  The initiative will also see 30,000 people trained in the use of AEDs.  Iridia is a key distributor for each of these programs and we are proud to be involved with these life-saving initiatives.

In recognition of the growth we have achieved in the past few years, Iridia was again named one of Business in Vancouver’s top 100 fastest growing companies for the third year running.  We were also proud to have been included in PROFIT Magazine’s list of Canada’s Top 500 Growing Companies for 2013. 

Finally, our commitment to health and wellness continued throughout the year with, most notably, our participation in the Global Corporate Challenge (GCC).  This program is designed to “get the world moving” and that is, in fact, what occurred with 37,432 teams (that’s 262,000 people!) from around the world participating in the 2013 GCC program.  21 of Iridia’s staff participated and some incredible accomplishments were achieved during the 4 months of the program.

Our First Year

The above highlights are just a select few of the key accomplishments we’ve achieved during our first year as Iridia Medical which has certainly been an exciting and action-packed one!  Looking forward, we are energized by the goals we have set for ourselves including expanding our remote medical services program both within and beyond BC, and building on our education and AED programs.  Stay tuned for more!



Driving Innovation With Our Mobile Medical Unit

In early 2013, Iridia accomplished one of its most innovative projects to date – the design, building and deployment of a mobile medical unit (MMU) in a remote oil and gas camp in Northeastern BC. 

The MMU is an industry first in British Columbia and was born out of the need for enhanced on-site medical treatment options for remote oil and gas camps.  During certain times of the year, evacuation of emergency or non-emergent patients can be impossible due to the weather conditions which then require the patient to remain in camp for extended periods of time.  With the deployment of the MMU, ill and injured workers can, in many cases, receive definitive care which enables them to stay in camp and avoid the hazards of transport to another medical facility.  

What exactly is the Mobile Medical Unit?

We like to describe the MMU as an RV on steroids!

It is a 53-foot trailer that expands to become a 1000 square foot workspace. It is fully equipped with equipment that would be found in a small hospital including a mini-lab, pharmacy, x-ray machine, and some of the latest diagnostic equipment, as well as with simple over-the-counter medications, antibiotics and narcotics for pain management. It is designed to house multiple patients for an extended period of time and is staffed 24/7 by an emergency trained physician. 

MMU Mobile Medical Unit MMU Mobile Medical Unit

By providing this facility in a remote camp, not only will it provide enhanced care for our patients, but it will also serve as an opportunity to study how this care model can impact the health and wellness of a camp population.

The Iridia MMU is one of only two mobile hospitals in British Columbia, with the other having been funded by the BC Government to support the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.  It is one of our greatest accomplishments as a company and speaks to our values of innovation, teamwork and quality. 


The MMU on the Move

It’s no secret that Iridia’s Mobile Medical Unit (MMU) project has been a significant focus for Iridia for the past nine months. It was a substantial undertaking and getting the Unit into camp and ensuring it was running smoothly required significant effort by a number of Iridia team members. We were happy that the doctors were comfortable, the Unit was humming along smoothly, and that all the rotations for 2013 were filled. Just when we thought we could relax, we received word that the MMU was going to have to be moved to a new location within the camp. What follows are the accounts from Tom Puddicombe (Director of Business Operations), and Iridia Founder, Dr. Allan Holmes, as they undertook the adventure of getting this complex Unit from point A to point B!


We like to describe the MMU as an RV on steroids with complex hook-ups for water and sewer, hydraulics for moving the sides out and a whole series of scary looking jacks to support the weight of the sides.

When we received word in late August that the Unit would need to be moved in late September, we immediately started the process of planning out the different components that would be involved with the move as we knew that this was going to be a complex and challenging project.  This included securing one of the drivers who had originally brought the MMU into camp.  The plans were coming together well and all was looking good.

However, on September 11, a phone message was received to call the camp immediately. Upon returning the call, we learned that the MMU was to be moved in 3 days’ time, not at the end of the month for which we had planned! We took a moment to catch our breath and then quickly revised the plans we had so carefully laid out. The driver was called off, Allan and I were hastily recruited to assist with the actual move, flights were immediately booked for the next day and off we went. We flew to Fort Nelson Thursday morning (September 12) in preparation for our helicopter ride to camp the following morning.

photo (3)

We were fortunate to have beautiful sunny weather on the Friday we arrived and immediately began the process of boxing, labelling and waiting for the moving truck. Dr. Denis Thibodeau, one of our MMU physicians, was in camp to help with the move. The goal was to have as much equipment as possible moved out of the Unit by the end of the day. By 6:30 that evening, the Unit was almost empty except for the beds.

Saturday was the official move day and we planned for a 1pm move. At this point, we still had to move the beds out, take down the interior walls, and bump in the side so it would look like a regular truck trailer. The move was only 100 metres but it felt like 100 miles! We got an early start and began the process of collapsing the Unit. In order to do this correctly, we needed to close one side half way, move to other side and close it completely and then return to the original side to push it closed. This being our first time closing the walls, we were more than a little cautious – the last thing we wanted was an overturned truck. Thankfully we were able to get the walls closed without incident. It seemed as though we’d have the Unit moved in no time. Then the fun started.

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Moving the Unit was a mammoth task and we encountered a number of pretty significant, unforeseeable challenges in the process, however, with resourcefulness, some good problem solving skills and the help of a number of trucking experts within the camp, we managed to troubleshoot the problems and move the Unit approximately 100 metres to its new position. After our success in taking down the Unit, we felt confident we could set it up without issues and we were right. The walls were opened, the jacks set and the Unit was levelled without any difficulty. Thanks to all – including special thanks to the Facility Safety Hand in camp – who assisted us with the various aspects and challenges of the actual move.

By this time it was getting dark and the beds were still sitting on the matting at the old location – the 2 hour delay in moving the Unit had not helped us. Saturday is steak and prawns night in camp and we knew the staff wouldn’t want to miss this weekly culinary treat, so we broke and joined the group for dinner.

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After a dinner equalling the finer steak houses in Omaha, Nebraska, we headed back out to the Unit. Thankfully it was still light until 9pm so we took advantage of a few more hours of daylight.  We hadn’t anticipated becoming a special dinner for the bugs who happily feasted on us during the dusk period.  As with many other aspects of the troubleshooting during the move, we “bootstrapped” our approach to the moving of the very heavy hospital beds.  I am not sure this is in the Stryker manual but why not transport the beds by strapping them to a plywood covered pallet and then moving them with a ‘bobcat’ across the yard?  While not an elegant process – dirty roads are very bumpy – it was efficient. The beds were moved one at a time and we managed to get them into the unit by 9pm as darkness was setting in. As we headed off to bed, we knew the heavy lifting was complete and that we could use Sunday to clean and setup the unit to its original form.  We are proud to say we were back in operation with only a six-hour window where the MMU was not accessible if an emergency came up.

Sunday’s pace was much more leisurely. We started with a lovely eggs benedict breakfast and then Tom was able to dispel the myth with his wife about not being able to clean, by cleaning the entire interior of the unit, including scrubbing the walls and floors. Then we brought in the equipment. By the time we sat down for turkey dinner – Thanksgiving came early – we had completed the job.

The weekend was a busy but satisfying one. With a good team working hard, and solving problems on the fly, the move was completed in a short three days.

Now that we are home, we hope that we won’t have to do another move like that for at least a few more years.

The Iridia Mobile Medical Unit – A Hospital On Wheels

Mobile Medical Unit (mmu)

This past January, Iridia was asked to provide a Mobile Medical Unit (MMU) to one of our northern camps.  A Mobile Medical Unit is a hospital on wheels; it offers the mobility of an ambulance with the modern day amenities of a hospital. This was new territory for us – we had never undertaken a venture like this before, but the excitement of leading an innovative project like this spurred us act quickly.

The Iridia MMU had to be built and delivered by the middle of March in order to utilize a volatile ice bridge that typically collapses due to increased temperature in early April.  Luckily the Iridia team acted quickly and the winter weather held out longer than expected! – the MMU arrived on time with two weeks to spare!

The MMU was born out of the need for enhanced on-site medical treatment options for remote out and gas camps.  Some of the medical needs and logistical challenges in remote camps include:

  • Harsh working conditions commonly resulting in a variety of injuries and illnesses
  • Lacerations, eye foreign bodies, and low back strains often require the patient to undergo a trip of several hours so they can be seen by a doctor
  • During certain times of the year, evacuation of emergency and non-emergency cases can be impossible due to the weather conditions which then require the patient to remain in camp for extended periods of time

The Iridia MMU overcomes these challenges by providing camp staff with 24 hour access to a physician, ultimately making their day-to-day lives more comfortable and safer.  Alongside general medical care, the MMU will also enable physicians to deliver long-term health and wellness programs to camp staff.

The Iridia MMU is one of only two mobile hospitals in British Columbia.  The other MMU was built to support the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.  The Iridia MMU features many of the amenities of a modern urgent care clinic.  

Mobile Medical Unit Features

Mobile Medical Unit (mmu)

The Iridia MMU will be deployed initially at one of the most remote oil and gas camps in BC for the next 2 years.  During this time, it will provide not only enhanced care for our patients but also a research opportunity to study how this care model can impact the health and wellness of this population.  


View more images of the Iridia MMU here

About Us

Founded in 1998 by Dr. Allan Holmes, Iridia Medical became an instant pioneer in the implementation of AEDs in British Columbian workplaces.  Our initial experiences in deploying AEDs expanded into medical education, consulting and paramedic services. We’re now one of Canada’s leading companies in the area of health and emergency preparedness and one of the fastest growing private companies in British Columbia.