by Evelyn von Almassy–What goes through our minds when we hear the sirens of an ambulance? Of course, we immediately pull over and get out of the way, but are we thinking about the crew of the ambulance? We might be wondering who is in the ambulance. While I was in hospital two years ago, I spent a few hours in ambulances being shuttled to other hospitals for various tests. A few weeks ago, I needed an emergency ambulance and since then, have been thinking about what makes an effective ambulance system.
It was past midnight when I took an emergency ambulance ride to the Queen Charlotte Hospital, with Fay Beaulieu and Megan Romas. They were so professional and so caring, I nearly cried, and not just because I was in excruciating pain! I wanted to learn more about the gig of being a paramedic, so I had a chat with Megan about this.
She is on call five shifts a week and these are usually during the night and on the weekends. In the summer, she works fourteen shifts per week, which means she is on call 24/7 during July and August. Megan wanted to make it clear that without her husband Brent, and her mother Carol, she could not be an attendant. So it seems that without family support, the attendants would not be out there.
Megan says the job is emotionally hard, especially when you are helping family members or friends. It is hard to detach when there is a serious call. Once she was out on an “mva” (motor vehicle accident) call, and had to look under an upside-down vehicle. She thought this vehicle had her sister in it, so you can imagine the dread that she felt.
She went on to say that you also need to have a strong stomach and be able to dead lift 125 pounds in order to qualify for the position. You need an Occupational First Aid Level 3, and have a Class 4 driver’s license.
She loves the job, and says most people who do the job enjoy it. It is certainly a challenging occupation, and you never know what is going to happen on any shift.
I was shocked to hear that the paramedics here were strictly volunteers, until about three years ago, when they received $1.00 per hour on call. Last year the on-call rate was increased to $2.00 per hour. If they are called out while on call, they receive $50.00 per shift, but do not receive the hourly on call rate. They all need to carry pagers while on call, and that is how the call comes to them.
When the paramedics get the call from the dispatcher from Kamloops, they go to ambulance station and wait for their partner to arrive, then they take the ambulance and pick up their patient. Megan has been doing this for fourteen years, (since she was twenty-one) and two of those years were in Vancouver.
At times when they are short of people, the firefighters and the nursing staff are also a big help, as they willingly take over the driver position. There always needs to be two attendants in each ambulance; one of these is the driver, the other the paramedic. Megan wanted to thank those people who step in without hesitation when the ambulance team needs more people.
There is always a team on call. Each 24-hour period, there are two day shifts and two night shifts in Charlotte. Presently, there are ten ambulance members here. They are always looking for more people to become involved. If you are interested in joining the ambulance team in QC, call Fay Beaulieu at 559-8098. You’ll get to wear a cool uniform, drive a vehicle and perhaps even save a life or two. The person that you help save could be a neighbour, friend or family member.
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