Supporting North Peace Secondary School in a Paramedic Career Path Opportunity

Dr. Holmes Presenting at North Peace Secondary SchoolThere is a significant shortage of local paramedics working in both the public and private sector in rural, northern, and remote areas of British Columbia. Iridia Medical is looking to address this ongoing challenge by supporting training and mentoring for a cohort of Grade 12 work experience students from North Peace Secondary School interested in a career as a paramedic or other health care profession. This initiative represents one of several ways Iridians continue to act upon our key value of social responsibility.

Iridia works in several remote areas with resource companies in northeast B.C. to provide an industry-leading level of medical care. We employ paramedics and Occupational First Aid Attendants (Level 3 or OFA3s for short), provide them with 24-hour access to on-call emergency physicians for further expertise, and deploy them to large remote work camps.

Iridia is also committed to hiring paramedics and OFA3s from the communities where we work. However, many of the surrounding small towns and villages near our remote operations suffer from a shortage of trained personnel. Paramedic and OFA3 expertise is not only needed by us, but also by B.C. Ambulance Stations and other industrial projects.

To address this gap, we are working with the District Principal of Careers at North Peace Secondary School (NPSS), Mr. Brian Campbell, to implement an innovative program to help guide Grade 12 students through the process of becoming fully licensed paramedics.

Dubbed the Paramedic Career Path (PCP), the initial phase of this innovative initiative is getting set to launch. A group of six to eight Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students will be selected and then trained to become job-ready OFAs. Once students are qualified as OFAs and complete a number of additional safety courses, they will be paired with, and directly supervised by, one of our Iridia paramedics in the field. They will not only have the chance to provide real-life patient care in a safe environment but also gain invaluable mentoring experience.

Shell, Progress Energy, and Viper Innovation have generously provided grant money for a number of safety training initiatives in School District #60, including the OFA training for the Paramedic Career Path initiative. A second phase of the program will then support OFA3’s to further their skills to become Emergency Medical Responders and eventually Primary Care Paramedics, in collaboration with B.C. Ambulance Service (BCAS).

The program will start in Fort St. John with plans to expand to both Fort Nelson and Dawson Creek high schools. To kick off, Dr. Holmes, Iridia’s Founder, travelled to Fort St. John to provide two sessions for close to forty Grade 12 students from both Transition to Trades and academic track students. Accompanying him were Rick Loukes, BCAS Superintendent, and Makayla McLeod, Iridia’s Assistant Paramedic Coordinator. These introductory sessions included a question-and-answer session with hands-on stations set up for students to practice CPR on the Iridia SmartMan manikin, learn how to use an Automated External Defibrillator, and complete an ambulance walkthrough. The presentation was very well received with a number of students anxiously looking forward to being involved in the program. Stay tuned!

Rick Loukes Teaching FSJ Students Makayla Training Students Rick Loukes Showing Students AED Electrodes Dr. Holmes Teaching Student CPR on SmartMan

An Advanced Care Paramedic at the Oil Patch

British Columbia Advanced Care Paramedic

I’ve worked for Iridia Medical for seven years, primarily travelling in and out of the Dilly Creek area for each rotation. In that time I’ve earned the title of “veteran,” giving me some advantages over the paramedics coming into these remote sites for the first time.

My years working in the north have taught me to pack as light as possible, the lighter the better with the airlines. You quickly learn what you can live without for 3 weeks and what absolute necessities are. Travel from the Okanagan where I live is always a new adventure. On those cloudless days I get a panoramic view of this province that only a few get to see on such a regular basis. En route I meet up with the other medics coming into the project at the various airports along the way. Arrival to camp is a two stage journey with air travel being the first and a 3+ hour drive to follow. During the drive, I am always watching for that close up view of the wildlife going about their business along the sides of the road. My favorite to date was seeing the cow moose with the triplets grazing alongside her – a rare sight at any time of the year.

Camp life is really quite nice. The camp staff know how difficult it is to be away from home working in these remote areas so many go the extra mile to have good food and a comfortable bed ready when you arrive. It’s always good to see those familiar faces when I arrive and get back into the groove of work life again. After touching base with the outgoing medic, the day ends with a quick meal and a well-deserved sleep.

The Advanced Care Paramedic (ACP) at the Dilly Creek is the central point of contact for our client’s safety department for all of their North East BC operations. Mornings start with that first coffee (got to lubricate and fuel those neurons!), compiling the previous day’s patient counts and mileage reports for submission. My day is usually filled with treating patients, gathering information about current and upcoming projects, ensuring the medic team has everything they need and working with operations to keep things running as smooth as possible. Some days are busier than others but all in all the time passes fairly quickly.

Advanced Care Paramedic at the Oil Patch

Being a clinic based service in a central location affords a few luxuries that many on the medic team don’t often receive. My clinic is modestly small but well equipped and comfortable. I have excellent internet and cell service along with satellite TV. Cushy by northern standards and I count myself fortunate.

The ACP at Dilly Creek has the freedom to move around the entire lease – their scope of coverage is not limited to one site. It is a nice break to get out of the office and visit the medic team, share a coffee and see how the various projects are getting along. Our client’s medical needs and responses are diverse so the team has to be adaptable to whatever is required. From simple cuts and bruises to critical evacuation by air I am proud to say our team has done it all up here and done it very well.

Home is 21 days away and there isn’t anyone one who doesn’t look forward to that last drive out. Our treat after a successful rotation is lunch and a cold beverage at the Boston Pizza in Fort Nelson. We chew over the events of the past 3 weeks, talk about our plans for the coming time off and get that relaxed feeling you experience knowing you are going home. 

Travis Cleave
Advanced Care Paramedic with Iridia

 

Toronto EMS Creates a New Kind of Paramedic

Paramedics aren’t usually called upon until after someone’s had an accident or an injury, but the Emergency Department of a hospital ranks among the most expensive of places to treat a patient.

Toronto EMS

To ease that demand, Toronto’s EMS program has decided to try something different: visit people’s homes before their need becomes an emergency. Under the city’s Community Paramedicine Program, emergency workers note the living conditions of patients who are, for example, housebound or suffering psychological problems and flag their cases for follow-up. Later with the patient’s permission, Community Paramedics pay them a visit. They interview the patient; sometimes they examine the patient or take a look at the patient’s prescription medications and help to arrange more regular care through community nursing, social workers, or hospital outpatient services.

 Toronto’s EMS

For many people whom are marginalised or living on the fringes of society, paramedics are their first -or even sole- point of contact with the health care system as they rely on emergency services to manage their chronic or unaddressed health care issues. Many of these people whom have fallen through the cracks in the system have become so used to their isolation that they have to be convinced or cajoled into accepting the services that exist for them. By turning paramedics into front-line medical professionals who make house calls, organizers of the program say Community Paramedics have helped to reduce repeat 911 calls by 80%.

“It is unsustainable to wait for the phone to ring and to respond to those life-threatening emergencies,” said Michael Nolan, the president of the Emergency Medical Services Chiefs of Canada. “We believe strongly that paramedics have more to offer by being pro-active.”

The program is gaining attention in other parts of the country as well. “It’s about keeping people healthy so that they don’t need the emergency services; they never deteriorate to that point.” said Penny Price, Alberta Health Services’ Health Integration Manager.

At the moment, there is no program like this in BC, which presents an interesting possibility.

In 2009, BC’s paramedics held a job action mainly over what they considered unacceptably low wages. At times, a junior BC paramedic’s pay can be as low as $2/hour while standing by between calls. In Toronto the starting wage for a paramedic is around $27‑$30/hour.

If you took an average of the various arguments flying back and forth in 2009, you’d probably find supporters of the paramedics saying that this financial position is untenable for junior and part-time paramedics trying to build a career in emergency health care. In response, you’d find detractors saying that the union’s overall proposed wage hike was enormous from a percentage standpoint (31%) with unjustified pay levels (the union claimed it was seeking wage parity with the Vancouver Police). Eventually the strike was broken when Victoria legislated the paramedics back to work with a 3% pay raise.

If Toronto’s success with its community program were to be repeated in BC, it seems there would be a substantial savings in emergency healthcare money and resources, the public would enjoy more comprehensive care, and the paramedics would have an opportunity to retool their wage structure.

Whether or not it represents a potential win-win scenario for paramedics and the BC Ambulance Service brass lies in a couple of questions: would those who opposed the paramedic’s demands reconsider if the paramedics offered services like the one in Toronto alongside their regular duties? To those who supported the paramedics (and the paramedics themselves), do you think it would be fair to ask them to take on programs like this as a condition of a more substantial wage increase?