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Category Archives: EMC

The EHS System Support team: Providing a behind-the-scenes lifeline during COVID-19

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As word came out of China in late December and early January of a mysterious virus that was beginning to spread, Gordie Parker and his team got to work in ensuring a stable supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) for the virus’ eventual arrival in Nova Scotia.

Emergency Medical Care already had a stockpile of PPE, but the issue for Parker and his team was determining what their future needs might be for a virus that was still more than two months from coming to these shores.

“We were just seeing things coming, seeing what we could find, and it just got busier as time went on,” said Parker, the manager of Logistics and Materials Management.

In normal times, Parker’s team, which includes Ryan Stronach, Sean O’Leary, Mark Rice, and Richard Corning, is tasked with delivering medical supplies and equipment to stations across the province and two fleet centres in Dartmouth and Sydney.

Their duties also include facilities management, tasks which could not be put aside even amid a pandemic.

“We couldn’t let things go away – there were certain things we had to keep on top of,” Parker said. “So we continued with making deliveries as usual.”

Eventually, however, sourcing PPE became a 24-hour job, and the entire team came together to get it done.

Jill Burke joined the team in December, moving over to the Wilkinson station from her regular duties supporting the EHS Medical First Responder program.

As the Logistics Team Lead, Burke immediately got to work in helping source PPE, including hand sanitizer, gowns, gloves, disinfectant wipes, and goggles.

“We had to find different vendors…relationships were built to get some masks and PPE stocked up for when [the virus] came to Nova Scotia,” said Burke.

There were a lot of sleepless nights, but Burke said the pressure has begun easing in recent weeks.

“All those things that stopped shipping are now shipping again – so we were able to get a supply of surgical masks, we were able to get a supply of gowns. Different things are starting to kind of move again.”

For his part, Parker said the experience has been exhausting at times, but credits his family for helping keep him focused.

“You’re no good to yourself or anybody else [when you’re mentally fatigued]. You’ve got to stop, take a break, and re-focus,” he said.

But the major credit for keeping paramedic PPE supply at good levels throughout the pandemic goes to his small but mighty team, he said.

“The team has been excellent, you couldn’t ask for anything more. They’ve dug deep down, they’ve worked extra hours, they’ve made extra phone calls,” he said.

“You couldn’t ask for a better team – everyone has contributed and gone the extra mile to ensure all frontline and support staff have the proper equipment, supplies and PPE”.

The EHS Operations EPSO team

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For more than a decade, Adam Love has been an EHS Operations paramedic working in regular ground operations out of Glace Bay, Nova Scotia.

But Love, originally from New Brunswick, was looking for a challenge.

He found one with the Emergency Preparedness and Special Operations (EPSO) team.

“As you grow you see the different opportunities, and when I saw the initial EPSO team and learned about them, I knew then that this was something I was probably going to be interested in,” Love said as he was fitting fellow Cape Breton Jason MacDonald into an airtight biohazard suit.

Love is among 24 paramedics who comprise the latest iteration of the EPSO Specialist Program, a group of highly-trained personnel who will answer any number of high-risk situations.

All EPSO team members are trained in disaster preparedness, chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear awareness, HAZMAT awareness and special equipment usage such as special operations all-terrain vehicles, trailers and various communications devices.

The group spent four days in Debert in early December undergoing intense training. They learned a variety of different skills, including how to perform extrications in difficult terrain or environments, dealing with violent and dangerous patients, and how to mobilize and deploy the province’s mass casualty supplies and equipment, which would be used for anything from a plane crash to a concert.  

“It’s the most in depth and the largest scope of training that we’ve had for these risks,” said Jay Walker, the EHS Operations manager for Special Operations Emergency Preparedness.

The 24 team members hail from all corners of Nova Scotia, from Halifax to Yarmouth, New Glasgow, and Sydney and will be embedded in normal ground operations.

The idea is they will be looked upon as leaders in mass casualty or high-risk incidents happen in their areas.

“They’re going to back to their region and they’re going to support the paramedics and give them the right logistical tools to help them do their jobs,” Walker said.

That’s what attracted Wanda Croft to the team.

Croft, an 11-year veteran paramedic working out of Cobequid, was looking to expand her skill set and take on a leadership role.

“I love ground work, being on the ambulance, but this has its challenges as in you specialize in things like biohazards and treating high risk, low-volume calls,” she said, adding that she feels this will help her become a better overall paramedic.

“You specialize in this kind of line of work so we can be better leaders and better support the regular ground paramedics in these kinds of situations.” 

Jarret Baxter has had his eye on the EPSO team since its inception nearly a decade ago and jumped at the chance to apply when the opportunity presented itself.

“I think there’s a lot of potential for paramedics to be doing more than what we’re doing now, able to expand our scope, work with allied agencies in a collaborative approach to everything,” said Baxter, who works out of the Herring Cove Road station.

Shaun MacLaughlin, an operations watch commander for the last six years out of New Glasgow, said he relished the thought of bringing his leadership skills to this new role.

“It’s something that I had been interested in for a while,” he said. “This is what I like – being in charge of setting things up and getting the whole operation ready so that it’s ready for the people that are coming in to do the job.”

To maintain their competency, the team has to be certified annually and will go through a fitness evaluation.

There will be a pair of regional training sessions on an annual basis, and every year the provincial team will meet in Debert for days of intense training.

“I have been extremely impressed with their professionalism and enthusiasm as a group,” Walker said.​

The EHS Operations EPSO team (Photo credit: Jay Walker, EHS Manager, Provincial Programs)

Getting a big answer to a little question

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You never know where a simple question might lead you.

When Marissa Hurtubise, an EHS advanced care paramedic out of Liverpool, NS had a question regarding whether a different dosage of medication can be used to treat out-of-hospital hypoglycemia, she reached out to Jen Greene, who leads the Prehospital Evidence-based Practice (PEP) program.

Hurtubise expected Greene to point her to some literature that answered her question, but she got something else entirely: an opportunity to lead a research project of her own.

“I literally did not expect to be involved to the extent that I’m involved,” she said. “I just had a simple question and then (Jen) is like ‘let’s go figure it out’”.

Nearly 10 months after beginning her research, she presented her findings at the 11th annual EMS Research Day on Oct. 29, which is a collaboration between EHS and the Dalhousie Department of Emergency Medicine, Division of EMS, who also manage the PEP program.

Clinical research had long been an interest for Hurtubise, who has worked as a paramedic for six years.

What she was missing was an outlet for her curiosity. She found one with the PEP program, along with Greene and Judah Goldstein, research coordinator in Emergency Medical Care’s Performance & Development department.

She said both have been “tremendous mentors” to her, as they guided her through the process, which is relatively new.

“This is the first time that we’ve tried to do this with a paramedic posing a question and then doing a systematic review around a specific intervention within the PEP structure,” Goldstein said.

Hurtubise will also present her findings at the National Association of EMS Physicians conference in January in San Diego.

While she is proud of what she has accomplished so far, it’s the possibility of it leading to improvements in the field that has her the most excited.

It’s like this little question turned into this enormous thing, it kind of snowballed,” she said.Like I said, I think that this could drive change in the way that we do things.”

World Restart a Heart Day

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October 16th was the second annual World Restart A Heart day,  a global initiative organized by the International Liaison Committee on Resuscitation (ILCOR) to raise awareness and education of CPR and AEDs in our communities.

To commemorate the day, the EHS AED Registry unveiled the very first SaveStation in Nova Scotia on the Halifax waterfront!

The AED will be accessible to the public year-round 24/7. The donation is a collaboration between the The Jordan Boyd FoundationSaveStationDevelop NS and the EHS AED Registry. 

You can learn more about ILCOR’s World Restart a Heart initiative by watching this great video: https://youtu.be/FrjzKIGFfi4. And you can learn more about the EHS AED registry by visiting their website at https://savelivesns.ca/.

Cultivating Wellness in Nova Scotia

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The advent of autumn, with its shorter daylight hours and crisp, chilly nights, might be viewed with trepidation by some, but not so for a group of paramedics.

As the leaves start to turn, paramedics at the Jamieson Street base in Dartmouth are excitedly waiting to see what the second harvest for their wellness garden will yield.

And cultivating the garden and watching it flourish has helped take their minds off the day-to-day stresses of the job.

“It’s a refuge, if you will. It’s a place to go and get away from the mindfulness of being a paramedic, just get out there and decompress,” said paramedic Glenn Sentner, who was an early champion of the garden and has helped get it to where it is today.

The garden was the brainchild of operations supervisor Krista Veinot and advanced care paramedic Matthew Fancey in 2018.

After getting the go-ahead, they engaged the services of operations supervisor Ritchie Gilby, who runs a small excavation and landscaping business.

Everything but the lumber was donated, with Gilby providing the materials – about eight yards of soil – and the labour to build the planter box, which measures about five-by-28 feet.

Since then paramedics have planted everything from herbs, radishes, cherry and roma tomatoes, cucumber, carrots, and zucchini.  

In June, Watch Commander Jimmy Hogan and EHS Operations supervisor Travis MacNeil built a community garden in Sydney for all staff to take part in and enjoy over the summer.

Hogan, an avid gardener at home, came up with the idea to help fellow colleagues who were interested in learning more about gardening.

That’s exactly what happened in Dartmouth, where paramedics, who had very little exposure to gardening before, were inspired enough to grow a green thumb.

The wellness garden has worked out so well, that Gilby said there has been talk of finding another spot at the station to build another area to grow herbs and produce.

“I think it’s a place for people to get to know each other,” he said. “They go out there, they talk, it’s pretty low stress in a relatively stressful environment. It’s just relaxing.”

EMC is Empowering Young Women at Camp Courage

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Emergency Medical Care (EMC) was excited to once again sponsor and host the two paramedic days for Camp Courage at EHS Central Regional Station (Wilkinson/Fleet Centre).

The mission of Camp Courage is to inform, encourage, support and introduce young women to the emergency services while developing their confidence, leadership skills and problem solving abilities. It ran from July 7-14 this year.

EHS took the reins with the guidance and planning of these days with paramedics, Donna Reid and Miranda Newhook, organizing the daily activities with former employee, Jodi Lambert also donating her time to return to Nova Scotia to offer her full support as she has for many years.

Camp Courage has started giving bursaries to some of their graduates to help them on their career paths, and this year’s Paramedic Bursary was named after paramedic, Odette Gaudet, who has been volunteering with Camp Courage since its inception. Odette also received an award this year for her commitment each year. Karen Comeau has been volunteering with Camp Courage for years and was one of the recipients of the award as well.

Karen Pineo has also been a volunteer from the very beginning. Her drive comes from her want to give back and to “empower our young women to be strong and have faith and belief that they can do absolutely anything and everything this world has to offer.” However, her biggest inspiration comes from her daughter Olyvia, who graduated Camp Courage in 2017.

For volunteer Tammy Taylor, the camp keeps her happy for the whole week. “When those young ladies walk out on their last day we are so proud of all they have accomplished.”

A special thank you goes out to Doug Denike, Krista Lane and EMC’s Senior Leadership Team for their support of Camp Courage 2019.

Volunteers included:

Brittany McFarlane
Taigan Ross
Krista Lane
Crystal Larkin
Caitlyn Hersey
Ceilidh Drake
Karen Cress
Christa Wamboldt
Tammie Taylor
Sarah Woznow
Dominick Tremblay
Brianne Moore
Haley Wallace
Carmen Grabo-Wagner
Kelsie Churchill
Jodi Lambert

Thanks to all of you for putting in the time and hard work to make Camp Courage an annual success!

Nova Scotia paramedic nationally recognized for excellence in education and training

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Each year, the Paramedic Association of Canada honours one individual from across Canada who has made an outstanding contribution to training and education in the field of paramedicine.  This year, Emergency Health Services (EHS) Advanced Care Paramedic Janel Swain has been selected as the 2019 recipient of the Paramedic Association of Canada Award of Excellence for Education and Training.

This major national award recognizes the excellent work that Janel and her division have achieved. Under her leadership as a clinical supervisor, EHS paramedic educators have focused on the innovative delivery of continuing professional development for EHS paramedics in Nova Scotia, while making national and international contributions to education and research.

Congratulations to Janel on this well-deserved recognition!

EHS expanding its Vehicle Flagging Initiative

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Almost exactly a year ago, EHS announced that it was partnering with the Nova Scotia Emergency Management Office on a new vehicle flagging program that identifies vehicles that have been checked by first responders.

When EHS personnel determine that an abandoned vehicle is clear of occupants, they mark it with blue reflective EHS ribbon when it is safe to do so. The goal has been to let the travelling public know that the vehicle has been checked and there is no need to report it to 911. However, they are still encouraged to call 911 if they are unsure or do not see the blue tape.

The EHS Vehicle Flagging (blue ribbon) Initiative has proven so popular that it is now being expanded beyond its 230+ sponsored agencies to all Nova Scotian fire departments, as well. The goal is reduce unnecessary responses for first responders that could, in turn, reduce the safety risk to both responders and the general public.

You can check out their original campaign video on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EHSNS/videos/2029254557288321/

EMC recognized for being on the leading edge of simulation training

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Recently, Emergency Medical Care Inc. (EMC) and its Performance & Development Department were presented with the 2018 SIM Innovator Award in recognition of their commitment to innovate, advocate and advance simulation for education, patient safety and quality improvement. 

The SIM Innovator Award is presented annually by SIM-one and the Canadian Network for Simulation in Healthcare and celebrates organizations at the leading edge of integrating simulation into their activities, using simulation-based strategies to disrupt the status quo and profoundly improve education and/or patient care.

In 2016, EMC launched the EHS Mobile Simulation (SIM) Program to maximize the benefit of simulation resources and increase accessibility to high fidelity simulation across the province. The SIM Program, resources and personnel have been integrated into several key elective education sessions including, A Multi-perspective Approach to the Acutely Ill Patient (MAP 1.0 & 2.0), OBGYN and Neonatal Emergencies, Crisis Resource Management, clinical evaluation process, as well as the prospective employee screening process.

The team has also had great success with delivering summer simulation sessions that often involve barbeques and tasty treats in addition to immersive learning opportunities.

Externally, the SIM Program partnered with Trauma Nova Scotia in the delivery of the Rural Trauma Team Development Course. This Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons accredited program allows for health care providers to participate in education designed to enhance their proficiency in managing trauma patients as part of an interdisciplinary team.

Since the launch of the SIM Program, over 400 education sessions have been delivered across Nova Scotia (with a few sessions in PEI and NB as well). The SIM Program continues to advance EMC’s goal of improving clinical performance through high quality professional education programs.

A first responder’s best friend

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In celebration of Paramedic Services Week this year, Emergency Medical Care Inc. announced a partnership with Canadian Intervention and Assistance Dogs (CIAD) to sponsor a service dog for a Nova Scotia first responder in need.

Over the summer, a litter of yellow Labrador puppies was born and one special pup was selected to become a service dog in training. As part of the partnership, EMC was allowed to name the puppy. After receiving over 130 name suggestions from employees all over the province, Chance was officially named and was able to begin the initial training process with his puppy-raiser. Both CIAD and the EMC Peer & Family Support Services Team assisted in the final name selection, which couldn’t be more fitting. The name ‘Chance’ was suggested by multiple employees, all sharing the same sentiment of a “second chance at life.”

EMC will be sharing Chance’s journey from start to finish to help educate the public on PTSD and the importance of service dogs. A video was published on the Emergency Health Services(EHS) Facebook page introducing Chance to the world. We hope that you will follow along the journey!