Optimism linked to expansion of paramedic training in rural N.S.

Training program will be offered at NSCC in Yarmouth starting in May

TINA COMEAU TRI-COUNTY VANGUARD tina.comeau@saltwire.com



SaltWire Network



Yarmouth paramedic Danny Deveau remembers the 80-year-old man anxiously waiting for the rear ambulance doors to open. His fivefoot-two frame rocked from side to side, bursting with excitement and relief. He and his wife had been separated for a long time while she had undergone cancer treatments and other medical care in Halifax. She was finally coming home. “By the time the ambulance is stopped, he's right at the back door,” Deveau recalls. “He beats me to the back door and we've got the stretcher half out of the ambulance and he's leaned on top of her and they're bawling and I'm bawling.” It's moments like that, he says – helping people, changing lives, and saving lives – that has kept him going as a paramedic for 22 years. He hopes it's a career that more and more people will continue to choose. And it is hoped the Primary Care Paramedic Program, to be offered in new locations in the province, will assist on this front. Up until now, paramedic training in the province offered through Medavie Health Services – the company that provides paramedic services in Nova Scotia – has only been available in Dartmouth and Sydney. In January, the provincial government announced that the course sites will be expanded this year, first in Yarmouth starting in mid-May and then in Stellarton, Pictou County, in the summer. The cost of the training program is $21,000, but the province will provide a tuition rebate of $11,500 to paramedics who agree to work in the province for at least three years. An open house was recently held at the Yarmouth Burridge Campus of the Nova Scotia Community College to make people aware of the training that will be offered there. Medavie personnel, EHS paramedics and NSCC staff were on hand. It's hoped offering the training in new rural parts of the province will make it more accessible to people, while also helping to address paramedic shortages. “Our main campus is in Dartmouth and then we have another campus in the Sydney area, there was a big gap beyond that,” says Brad Reid, program manager for Medavie. These, he says, are long distances for people in southwestern Nova Scotia, for instance, to access training because it means having to relocate when it comes to housing and incurring other expenses. That could be a deterrent to people, as opposed to having training in your own community or a short commute away. “It just makes sense to bring the course closer to people,” Reid says, adding it can have advantages for host regions. “Traditionally, we do see that people that take the training, want to work in their local area.” The training runs for 12 months and includes seven months of classroom/simulation training and four months of clinical and practicum training. Reid knows it can be hard to recruit people into the health-care fields. There are countless stories of staff shortages in many parts of the system, which can be a turnoff. But it also means the province is looking for people to hire. “It's been a stressful few years for people,” he says, but he feels the tide – brought on largely by the COVID pandemic – is starting to turn. “I think for the people that are interested in health-care type of work, there's many options in this province right now.” He says they've seen a nice uptake of interest from people in the southwestern region about the new training to be offered. “We have continuous intakes in all of our different programs, so there's interest all year long, but it's been really nice to see the interest in the area,” he says. People can find out more information about the training program and the application process on Medavie's Health Ed website. Danny Deveau feels the new Yarmouth training location will be beneficial. “It will give people the opportunity to step up and help their area and train locally where they could stay local,” he says. “Not everybody can afford to just pack up and move for a year.” Asked how the new training will benefit the public itself, Deveau says it's no secret that this region, like other parts of the province, is short staffed at times. “It will allow us to put on more ambulances,” he says, by having more people available when, for instance, others call in sick or can't work their shift for whatever reason. “It can help keep those ambulances on the road where they should be,” he says, as opposed to sitting idle. Deveau says there is no question you have to be “a people person” to be a paramedic, given the amount of people you come into contact with, which includes stressful and traumatic situations when people are hurt and in pain. But it's not always like that, he says. “The people I have met during a transfer from Halifax in the back of the ambulance. When you're with someone for three hours, the conversations you have. You learn about their life, etc., sometimes it can be very moving.” Still, there are many difficult calls that paramedics attend to. “It takes a special type of person and sometimes you don't know how you'll cope until you're actually put in the situation. Everybody deals with it different,” he says. “The good thing is paramedics rely on each other a lot. You become a family and you're never alone. You help each other out through the harder times.”