Northumberland County Paramedics Celebrate Paramedic Week

In Editor Choice, Editorial, Local

By Rebecca Buchta/OPSEU Local 381

May 22nd marks the beginning of Paramedic Week in Ontario. This is our time to celebrate the profession and to reflect on the past year of challenges, changes, and accomplishments. In this last year, last two years, our already demanding job challenged us in almost every way.

In addition to the normal amount of illness, accident, and death we see, Covid provided more.

We went to work every day and worried about these new patients. We worried we would be infected; we worried we would bring Covid home to our families. The constant needed vigilance and increases in 911 calls have left us bruised. It has added to the difficult long hours we spend away from our families.

During this time, it is important to acknowledge these realities without spin.

But Paramedic Week also gives us a moment to recognize our resilience and strength.

During this challenging Pandemic, Northumberland Paramedics continue to provide outstanding care.

Along with these normal duties, we have expanded our services to both serve our community and fellow medics.

Change in our job is nothing new.

One way to look at this profession is to understand that it undergoes constant change and growth and one of the important ways medics, especially new medics, cope and thrive in this environment is through mentorship.

As a fifteen-year veteran, I remember very well my early days on the road and the medics who helped me along the way. Our protocols changed every year. Our medication bags grew, and I leaned on the experience of my co-workers to help me navigate the constant adjustments.

There is a very steep learning curve in becoming a paramedic.

The college programs are competitive and intense.

A graduate must pass exam after exam and undergo exhausting lifting tests. We become skilled actors, playing out different scenarios, treatments, and priorities for our teachers. We graduate with road experience, but it is impossible to see every 911 situation. Once hired, years long mentoring begins. New graduates, and part-time medics often work back and forth from days to nights. They work constant weekends and holidays. In this initiation, they learn from every call and every medic they work with, taking tips, and hints long with them.

Mentoring is critical in this profession. One such storied mentor in our service is Jim Anderson.

In interviewing him for this piece, I was hoping for a juicy quote that might jazz up my pros and provide a little drama.

I am not sure why I thought this might happen. Jim is and has always been a stalwart, stoic, man of few words.

When I asked him if he had done a call that was more memorable than any other, he answered “any positive outcome, any kind of improvement, comfort, or analgesic I can provide” was his answer.

When I asked what the most satisfying part was of being a paramedic was, he thought about it for a second and said, “looking after patients.” These concise answers don’t showcase the wealth of knowledge he has passed on to all his students and new partners over the years. He couldn’t say how many students he mentored, there have been so many.

Working since 1977, Jim has witnessed enormous change.

Cobourg and District Ambulance Service needed his CPR and Advanced 1st Aid certificate as credentials.

Over the course of his career, the profession has expanded in its scope of practice, adding several symptom relief and cardiac medications, cardio-electric therapy, and advanced airway procedures to name a few.

Along with these medications, technology evolved to help us. GPS streamlines our navigation; computers speed up our paperwork and give us real time feedback on our resuscitative efforts.

Stretchers use hydraulics to lift, easing the demand on our backs, prolonging paramedic careers.

These advances aid in the physical demands of the job.

I asked Jim how he handles the emotional parts of our job.

“Bad calls will happen. it’s not if, it’s when.” What does he do after a bad call? “I go to the next call.”

This straightforward approach is there for us all, but when that doesn’t work, Northumberland County Paramedics now have a peer support team.

This group of medics’ train to be able to guide their co-workers towards more help. Supervisors, working medics, and technology are in place to recognize bad calls and pair medics with peer support team members.

During this pandemic, Northumberland County also launched a Community Paramedic Program.

This parallel group works to provide Northumberland County residents with preventative health care services.

Flu Shots, Covid 19 shots, remote patient monitoring for cardiac care, assistance with diabetic devices, blood work for homebound residents, clinics in shelters, and home visits for patients recently discharged from hospital are some of their responsibilities.

The CP’s check on patient medication compliance’s, take part in fall preventative strategies, and liaise with family physicians on patient progress. Community Paramedic patients are referred by many County wide health care partners. They include our hospitals, family health care teams, and Northumberland County paramedics. The Community Paramedic Program is set to expand significantly this year. Ten full-time medics will be hired, allowing us to grow our ability to help more patients in the community.

In the fifteen years I have worked for Northumberland County, I have seen enormous change.

With population and service expansion, our medical directives, equipment, education, opportunities, and responsibilities have grown in tandem.

The only thing that remains constant is the diligent, and compassionate care Northumberland County Paramedics provide twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

Though our profession continually changes with new research, new technology, and new services – high standard patient care is mentored here and remains our top priority.

Pete Fisher
Author: Pete Fisher

Has been a photojournalist for over 30-years and have been honoured to win numerous awards for photography and writing over the years. Best selling author for the book Highway of Heroes - True Patriot Love

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