Today we are profiling the six BCEHS paramedics who helped shape community paramedicine in BC as regional training officers (RTOs) for the program.
Rhiannon Davis, Karen Reader, Mark Rivard, Sarah Shaw, Wayne Standen and Patti Thompson were the first community paramedics in BC. Their work to raise awareness of the program and forge positive relationships with local health care professionals helped to ensure the success of this transformative initiative.
The RTOs helped develop the orientation program for all new community paramedics, identified areas for improvement and tested all new policies, procedures and practice support tools created specifically for community paramedicine.
The enthusiastic commitment of these skilled paramedics and leaders is a significant reason the implementation of British Columbia’s community paramedicine program has been such a tremendous success. As the program rolls out to rural and remote communities across the province, the RTOs are now supporting and mentoring new community paramedics in their areas.
1. What do you like most about your job at BCEHS?
Mark Rivard, RTO and unit chief in Fort St. James, says:
“There are a number of things I like about my job with BCEHS – it’s difficult to pick just one. Delivering quality patient care still remains my number one focus and passion as a paramedic.
“Over time, I’ve been able to try my hand at different jobs within BCEHS, including community paramedicine. Working in one of the selected prototype communities, I was granted the opportunity to develop the program here in Fort St. James. With my fellow RTOs, BCEHS management, Northern Health management and inter-professional team members, we were able to successfully implement the program.
"I believe this program is something everyone in our organization should be proud of, as it not only supports some of our most vulnerable patients, but creates an avenue for building efficiencies in health care.”
2. What is most rewarding about your job; what makes it all worthwhile?
Karen Reader, unit chief in Princeton and the RTO for the prototype communities of Creston and Princeton in Interior Health, reflects on all the opportunities she’s been able to explore during her 15 years with BCEHS.
“What makes my experience with community paramedicine particularly rewarding is the amount of trust that was placed in each of us as the program was getting underway and now as RTOs. We’ve had a high degree of responsibility and autonomy. At the same time, the project team looks to us to provide feedback on how to make the program better. It was great to be a trailblazer, and even better to see your feedback being integrated into the program.”
3. What is your proudest moment at PHSA?
As the RTO and unit chief in Hazelton at the time of the prototype phase (she’s now the unit chief in Williams Lake), Patti Thompson had the opportunity to reach out to a number of First Nations communities in the area.
“I was especially proud to see the willingness of the First Nations people, and the Elders in particular, to welcome me into their community. It showed the level of trust we were able to establish with each other. Now I’m proud to watch our new CPs take on their responsibilities with dedication, passion and tenacity. It makes me feel very honoured to be part of this new program.”
4. How do the PHSA values show up in your work?
As the first community paramedics and now in their current roles, the RTOs demonstrate the PHSA values in their dealings with staff, patients, local health professionals and community members.
Respecting people is a necessity for community paramedics to establish a positive relationship with their patients, who are older people living on their own in rural and remote communities, often with little or no support. Regular visits from the community paramedic can help these patients live longer in their homes, reduce their reliance on medically unnecessary 911 calls, and help ensure they stay connected with their primary care physicians.
The RTOs know, from their experience as paramedics and unit chiefs in rural communities, that being compassionate is fundamental to providing care to their patients. There have been many examples of the RTOs going above and beyond, from staying a little longer in the home to listen when no one else will, to fixing a senior’s gate or walker when there’s no one else to lend a hand.
The first priority of a new community paramedic is cultivating partnerships by getting to know the local community and neighbouring First Nations, and working with local health care providers to identify ways of improving the health of residents, particularly older residents with chronic diseases. The RTOs led the way with community outreach in their communities, and paved the way for new community paramedics to integrate successfully with local health care teams.
Each and every one of the regional training officers brought a true sense of dedication and purpose to their roles. They truly saw themselves as “the face” of BCEHS and the Community Paramedicine Initiative in their communities, and reveled in the opportunity to apply their considerable knowledge and skills as paramedics in non-emergency settings in the community and patients’ homes.
Join us in congratulating Rhiannon Davis, Karen Reader, Mark Rivard, Sarah Shaw, Wayne Standen, and Patti Thompson – the Community Paramedicine Regional Training Officers Team – on their PHSA+ Award, and welcoming the newest RTOs, Anna Chayba and Chris Hui.