This inspiring mother-daughter team share what it’s like working together and highlight the importance of female leadership in emergency health services.
Tina Basarab knows what it takes to be a paramedic leader because she’s spent almost her entire life seeing her mother, Joy Wilson, serve as the local ambulance station unit chief.
Joy joined the provincial ambulance service in 1986 to serve her community on Galiano Island. “They needed people to work on the ambulances, I thought it sounded fun, and the rest is basically history!” she says. When Tina was two, Joy was promoted to unit chief at Station 117.
This November, Joy passed the unit chief mantle on to Tina. It was a proud moment for both, but evoked mixed emotions.
“I’ve got big shoes to fill,” Tina says. “Joy is such a strong, smart, compassionate person who perfectly encompasses what a paramedic should be. I hope I’ll be able to go above and beyond for the people of Galiano like she was always willing to do.”
Joy made the difficult decision to leave the position after the station’s shift scheduling model changed, choosing to stay on as a part-time paramedic instead of being unit chief. “Even though it’s sad to step down, I’m happy that it’s Tina taking on the role,” she says. “We’re all so proud of her, and I know Tina can do this because she’s incredibly capable.”
Tina was awarded the unit chief title after a competitive selection process, including a qualifying test and interviews assessed at the provincial level, says Shannon Brayford, Manager, Clinical Operations for Saanich-Gulf Islands District.
“It’s a lovely coincidence that the best person for the job was Tina, who just so happens to be Joy’s daughter,” says Shannon. “Tina brings a lot of energy and new ideas, but she’s also grounded with deep roots on Galiano, so she can lead the station forward in ways that are meaningful to the community.”
Unit chiefs function as local supervisors with a wide range of responsibilities, including scheduling, day-to-day ordering, and serving as community representatives for BCEHS. “In the Gulf Islands and other rural or remote stations especially, the unit chief is vital as a liaison and bridge between the local community and BCEHS as an organization,” explains Shannon.
Station 117 provides emergency health services just over 1000 permanent residents of Galiano Island, plus tourists who visit.
As long-time Galiano residents, Tina and Joy know many people they serve personally. They’ve even been on calls together for Joy’s mother-in-law/Tina’s grandmother – with three generations of the family in one ambulance.
“It’s a blessing and a curse,” says Joy. “It’s emotionally hard at times, but it also feels like you can be there for people when they need someone the most, and that you really care about them.”
With Joy still at the station as a paramedic, she and Tina will continue going on calls together. The two have found their relationship gives them a unique advantage working as a team in high-pressure emergency health situations.
“Fortunately or unfortunately for us, we’re pretty similar,” Tina laughs. “I’ve known her my whole life, which makes it feel seamless and intuitive working together on calls. I'm also very glad we have the same sense of humour! We spend a lot of our time together laughing.”
At work, they prioritize professionalism and don’t emphasize that they’re related. But, their strong family resemblance frequently gives them away as the “mother-daughter team,” and Galiano Island locals already know their family well.
After 36+ years as a paramedic, Joy says she’s learned that having a sense of humour is crucial to the job, paired with a deep compassion for patients and commitment to the community.
Over her career, Joy has also seen changes in paramedicine across the province. “Now, we have many more women in the ambulance service as paramedics, but not enough in leadership positions,” says Joy. “Still, I can see that we’re getting there.”
Notably, Galiano Island has an all-female paramedic leadership team, with Tina as unit chief, Shannon as manager, and Heather Edward at the director level, for South Island – Patient Care Delivery, Island Districts.
“BCEHS is intentionally welcoming diversity in our leadership, and the fact that Tina applied for this job shows we’re making progress,” says Shannon. “It’s fantastic to see a young, female Gulf Islander in this leadership position.”
“Having an incredible role model like my mom is a huge reason that I am who I am, and where I am today,” says Tina. “It feels good to see more and more women in ambulances as role models – for younger women, older ladies, and for anyone who might want to work as a paramedic.”
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