If you’re looking for a profession with a predictable, “same-old, same-old” type of work day then being an ambulance paramedic is not for you.
Thankfully, that kind of a job doesn’t appeal to the men and woman who respond to accident scenes, medical emergencies or caring for the sick and elderly in our community.
“I was looking for something that wasn’t a desk job,” Trevor Melville, a 27-year veteran paramedic, says about when he became a paramedic.
Campbell River’s paramedic corp are dynamic, active people who want to make a difference in their community. “You can have an impact in a short amount of time,” says Danielle Robertson.
Robertson and Melville represent the diversity that exists in Campbell River’s B.C. Emergency Health Services ambulance station. Melville is a full-time veteran that became a paramedic in the community when the city’s fire department provided that service. He then transferred into the BC EHS when they absorbed all paramedics province-wide. Robertson is a part-time paramedic who maintains her status so that she can stay and work in this community, the one she grew up in and whose father serves as a full-time paramedic here as well. In fact, Robertson often works on shifts with her father whenever the opportunity comes around in the rotation of assignments.
“He started (here) when I was two and it’s always been part of my life,” Robertson says.
Melville started as a paramedic back when you became a firefighter and then took the training that qualified you as a paramedic.
“At that time, your training was given after you were hired,” Melville says. “Now it’s reverse; you have to be trained before.”
Melville was a volunteer firefighter in Comox and a part time paramedic when he hired on in Campbell River.
Robertson, meanwhile, joined up 10 years ago and did the Emergency Medical Responder training, which is the basic training to get you into an entry-level paramedic job. But she had to begin her career in Sayward and Port McNeil before being able to transfer into Campbell River. That’s quite common.
Sometimes you’ll have to put in time in other larger urban centres in the province before you can secure the posting that you want. Campbell River, for example, is considered a plumb posting.
After you’re hired, though, the learning never stops and not just through experience.
“The training prepares you with the skills but you learn a lot on the job,” Robertson says.
But in addition, you spend a portion of every year upgrading your training formally. The training is handy, of course, because the Campbell River station is a challenging post which appeals to this group of professionals.
“No day is ever the same,” Robertson says.
You might come in to work at the start of your shift expecting a calm, quiet day but before you know it, you might have to board a Coast Guard vessel or fly to a remote inlet. “That’s what’s unique about this station,” Melville says.
Campbell River is considered an urban posting but the area that the station covers includes the local waters and adjacent mainland inlets, much of which is wilderness, as well as Strathcona Park.
“I have gone as far north as Kingcome Inlet,” Melville says.
Other times, calls have involved travelling to Zeballos and other places further afield.
But at the core of the work is the desire to help people; to make a difference in people’s lives.
“You can make a difference in a short amount of time,” Robertson says.
Meilville agrees. “You also get to see the results of your work fairly quickly,” he says.
Another aspect of that is how closely the ambulance paramedics work with the Campbell River hospital and its staff and how important that relationship is. “Being a small community, we get to work closely with the hospital,” Robertson says.
That level of integration allows for a more personal touch. The paramedics don’t just drop off a patient and never see them again. Part of the staying in touch involves knowing the hospital staff who are treating the patients. “You can follow up,” Melville says.
The paramedics take pride in their work and value the relationship their profession has with the public.
“I think one of the positive things on the job too, you don’t necessarily think of often is, it’s a privilege, actually, that people have the trust in us to briefly allow us into their homes and their lives, usually in a time of crisis,” Melville says.
It’s in that time of crisis that most people come into contact with paramedics and it is probably what you would immediately associate them with. So, what allows paramedics to be able to deal with what often is a traumatic situation? Is it a natural ability? Is it something you learn?
“Well, you figure it out pretty early on, whether you’ve got it or not,” Melville says. “It’s certainly not for everybody.”
“Sometimes you do deal with stuff that affects you worse than other things. You just figure out who you can talk to.”