College graduates are facing a very different work environment in 2020.
Like many recent graduates, Bailey Meraw found her new workplace dramatically altered by COVID-19. In Meraw’s case, as a paramedic with the County of Lennox & Addington Paramedic Services and 2019 graduate of Loyalist College’s Paramedic program, her work puts her at the front lines of the pandemic every day.
She had been working as a paramedic for less than a year when the pandemic hit.
“I found employment right out of school and was really well prepared for the work,” said Meraw, a talented athlete, who won Most Valuable Player in 2018 for her performance on the Loyalist Lancers Women’s Rugby team. “Many of the faculty who teach at Loyalist are working paramedics, and what we learned from our instructors was based on real-life situations they had encountered. So I had a lot of understanding of the job already. But this pandemic is new for everyone, whether you have been working for decades or you have just finished your education.”
Workplaces across Canada have been affected by COVID-19, but as first responders and essential workers, paramedics must face these challenges head-on. “We have to be very careful. Our normal protocols are constantly being updated as we continue to learn about the virus,” she explained.
These changes affect everything from medication to gear. “The way we use protective gear is different; the standards for the amount of oxygen we give have changed; we’ve even transitioned away from administering certain medications that increase risk of airborne transmission.”
But even with the risks faced by first responders, Meraw said she has always known that saving lives on the front lines is where she is meant to be.
“I’ve always known that I wanted to do this,” said Meraw. “Being a paramedic is part of my family history.”
Meraw’s career choice was inspired by her grandfather. “I’m very close with my grandparents, and I grew up hearing stories about my Papa’s experiences as a medic,” said Meraw. “I knew I wanted to follow in his footsteps and help people.”
For Meraw, the hardest part of her experience on the front lines is staying away from her grandparents and loved ones, in order to keep them safe. “I haven’t hugged my grandparents in three months, and that has been difficult for me,” she said. “But it’s what has to be done, and I know my family is proud of me.”