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Paramedic specialists – an innovation out of the overdose crisis

A new type of paramedic is helping ensure British Columbians with complex medical emergencies get the best care possible. Learn more about BC Emergency Health Services’ paramedic specialists.
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Paramedic specialists provide an extra layer of clinical and technical expertise. These paramedics, who are licensed as advanced care and critical care paramedics, receive additional technical training for this enhanced role. Their job includes directly caring for patients, and supporting other paramedics in patient care across the province. 

A response to the opioid overdose crisis 

The paramedic specialist program had its early beginnings in late 2016 with two advanced care paramedics in “single responder” SUV-style vehicles, supporting regular paramedic crews in Vancouver who were facing an unprecedented number of life-threatening overdoses. In 2017 the program was formalized, and 20 paramedic specialists are now serving B.C. 

Rather than travelling in a standard ambulance that transports patients, paramedic specialists travel alone and are dispatched to a patient scene on an as-needed basis to support regular paramedic crews, particularly when scenes require technical advice for hazards (chemical, biological etc). The single-responder model offers flexibility to move quickly from scene to scene.

While paramedic specialists are responding on the street in the most heavily populated areas of B.C. - the Lower Mainland, the Sea to Sky Corridor and the Fraser Valley - others are based in BCEHS’ Vancouver dispatch centre, to assist patients and paramedics by phone throughout the province. This adds an extra level of expertise to the patient triage process for 9-1-1 calls.

Revelstoke primary care paramedic Jeni Gibbs appreciates the support paramedic specialists provide to her:

“Working in rural and remote British Columbia, you can often feel like you are by yourself on a call, and you can often be faced with large emergencies,” said Gibbs. “So having a paramedic specialist that you can speak to really makes a difference for us out there.”

Paramedic specialists working in dispatch handle approximately 100 calls a day from paramedic crews in the field. 

The program is based on models utilized in Australia and the United Kingdom. 

Meet some of our paramedic specialists in this short video:


You might also be interested in Paramedic Credentials and Levels of Care.
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