One of the many benefits of being a Loyalist College Paramedic student is learning from faculty who also work in the field. Faculty relay their workplace experiences to their students so they can understand industry best practices and how they evolve.
Erin Bons has been a paramedic for 14 years. In addition to teaching at Loyalist, she works with Hastings Quinte Paramedic Services. Bons has seen a shift in how personal protective equipment (PPE) is used by paramedics in pandemic times.
“Sometimes, within our normal practice, we’re a little bit reserved with our PPE,” said Bons. “We’ve always used it, but with the spread of COVID-19 we’re using more of it. We’re taking extra precautions to prepare ourselves first. If we’re not healthy, we can’t help others.”
Ben Potts began teaching in the College’s Paramedic program in 2018 and, like Bons, works for Hastings Quinte Paramedic Services. Potts is also a volunteer firefighter with the Quinte West Fire Department and will be teaching in the College’s new Pre-Service Firefighter Education & Training program this September.
“Paramedics are responding to the same life-threatening emergencies they were prior to the announcement of a pandemic,” said Potts. “These medical emergencies range from respiratory distress to cardiac arrest. Embedded into each call is the reality of COVID-19 and the associated risks, regardless of the underlying call.”
The process begins with dispatchers. They ask a series of questions to the person requesting an ambulance to determine if paramedics require additional PPE like masks, face shields or gowns. This occurs while paramedics are making their way to the location. On arrival, paramedics ask a similar set of questions directly to the patient and their family to ensure the information is correct.
“We can’t take any chances,” said Potts. “All allied agencies in the region – paramedics, police and firefighters – are working together to provide the highest level of care and security during this global situation.”
While providing emergency service is central to the job, another aspect is easing COVID-19 fears and assisting patients with implementing precautionary measures.
“Patients are very afraid,” said Bons. “They’re afraid because they don’t clearly understand what we’re dealing with. A lot of what I’m doing with patients is educating them. Making sure that they’re using credible resources and trying to let them know that if they’re really sick, then yes, they need to go to the hospital. If they’re not, then staying at home is the best place for them.”
To meet a province-wide need for more emergency service workers, Loyalist graduated 19 Paramedic students last week who met their program requirements. Fifty percent have already been hired by a paramedic service.
“These new graduates successfully completed their in-ambulance hours and coursework,” said June MacDonald-Jenkins, Dean of the School of Health, Human and Justice Studies at Loyalist. “The College normally finalizes credential paperwork by the end of the semester, which is April 17. These are unique circumstances and our community needs qualified paramedics right now. Our new graduates have a lot to contribute to the field and are well prepared to help those in need.”