Para­medic Ser­vices Week open house

Hands-on event pro­vides in­sight into the pro­fes­sion

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - BARRY GRAY

Like many paramedics, Michelle Green­spoon wanted to make a dif­fer­ence.

“I had a gen­eral in­ter­est in emer­gency re­sponse,’ she says, re­mem­ber­ing grow­ing up as a life­guard and see­ing it as a log­i­cal next step.

Life pulled her in a dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion, to a job in an of­fice. But some­thing else was call­ing. She re­turned to paramedicine as a way to have a mean­ing­ful, im­pact­ful ca­reer, while balancing home and work life.

With six years of ex­pe­ri­ence in the field, the PCP — or pri­mary care para­medic — was one of sev­eral paramedics and su­per­vi­sors on hand this week to of­fer a glimpse into their world dur­ing a hands-on ses­sion at the Hamil­ton Para­medic Ser­vice train­ing cen­tre on Stone Church Road.

The event was held in con­junc­tion with Para­medic Ser­vices Week in Canada, a chance to learn about and rec­og­nize the work these front-line pro­fes­sion­als do.

To­day’s paramedics will spend an av­er­age of two to three years study­ing and train­ing, and many more hours each year re­view­ing and learn­ing. Their skill set is vast — from ad­min­is­ter­ing a va­ri­ety of med­i­ca­tions, to de­fib­ril­la­tion and in­tu­ba­tion for ad­vanced care paramedics. Their work far ex­ceeds re­spond­ing to critical in­juries.

There are a num­ber of pro­grams run by HPS, such as their @Home Com­mu­nity Para­medic Pro­gram, which as­sist mem­bers of the com­mu­nity with less se­ri­ous is­sues and free up am­bu­lances for more se­ri­ous health threats.

Even with pre-emp­tive pro­grams like this in place, HPS is busy. In 2016, they re­sponded to nearly 65,000 events, log­ging more than 1.7 mil­lion kilo­me­tres in the process. Those pa­tient numbers strain re­sources, re­sult­ing in longer wait times or ex­tra time off-load­ing at hos­pi­tals.

Al­though the tools avail­able to­day are state of the art, for front-line work­ers such as Green­spoon, it’s the peo­ple that mat­ter most. When she first started, she had a vi­sion of para­medic work.

Turns out, it was more like tele­vi­sion than real life.

“When you be­come a para­medic, you think ev­ery call you walk into is go­ing to be heart at­tacks and car ac­ci­dents. What you learn very quickly is that that’s ac­tu­ally a very low per­cent­age of what we’re do­ing,” she says.

Still, hold­ing some­one’s hand, or simply talk­ing them through a sit­u­a­tion, can be of tremen­dous im­por­tance to a pa­tient, and is not for­got­ten.

“I go to an event, and some­body pulls me aside and says, ‘Do you re­mem­ber me? You helped me and my mom.’ I didn’t re­al­ize my five min­utes with that per­son was so im­pact­ful. And that is a re­ally feel-good mo­ment.”

PHO­TOS BY BARRY GRAY, THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

For paramedics like Michelle Green­spoon, above, and Mark Pana­gapka, left, their work far ex­ceeds re­spond­ing to critical in­juries. Their skill set is vast — from ad­min­is­ter­ing a va­ri­ety of med­i­ca­tions, to de­fib­ril­la­tion and in­tu­ba­tion for ad­vanced care paramedics.

Hamil­ton Para­medic Ser­vice Deputy Chief Rus­sell Crocker demon­strates how to aid a chok­ing vic­tim. To­day’s paramedics will spend an av­er­age of two to three years study­ing and train­ing, and many more hours each year re­view­ing and learn­ing.

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