Paramedics on how COVID-19 changed the way they work

Paramedics during COVID

Sarita Patel

Many of us have shifted over to working from home during the global crisis, but what if your job required you to be on the front lines? That’s exactly what Emergency Medical Service workers do daily.  

Castanet spoke with two paramedics to see how things may have changed since the pandemic. 

“I’m still anxious for sure, that’s just the nature of the job, but we’re extremely diligent with our PPE and our cleaning and we have either mental health support that we need or the manager of support that we need,” explains Nicole Merritt, a primary care paramedic. 

“We respond with face mask and face shield suspecting everybody has COVID-19 just to keep us safe and keep our patients safe,” says Daniel Stephens, also a primary care paramedic. 

Things were changing very rapidly for the paramedics but they say managers were able to communicate all the necessary information from PPE to safety protocol changes. 

Nicole says not having a human connection with people is hard, especially since they’re typically less than six feet apart but with social distancing and masks it’s harder to reassure patients about their condition.  

“I’m still smiling under the mask and I’m constantly apologizing to patients and family members being like, you know I am sorry you can’t see my face but we’re still here for you. We are still smiling under here, we’re here at any capacity that you need,” adds Merritt. 

There was a moment in time when PPE was getting tougher to locate, and with paramedics being so close to patients they needed to ensure they had the right equipment. 

That’s why within two weeks, BCEHS will be rolling new long-term half masks in Kelowna. These masks have a filter that will last from three to six months allowing stations with fewer calls a chance to stock up on the N95 masks. 

With restrictions slowly being lifted they hope the public still remains diligent on social distancing practices.     

“We’ve done a great job of flattening what we have, but I do think to ease back into things obviously our economy will have to restart but I do think the slow controlled progress is what we’re hoping,” says Merritt. 

“We’re not done yet, right, it could possibly go the other way - we’re hoping it won’t but you never know,” says Stephens. 

They also have a mental wellness committee that takes care of the team during these tough times. 

“We have a number, a pager that we call anytime, 24-hours a day - it doesn’t matter if you have a bad call or if you just want to talk to somebody or need some support. We also have sessions with clinical psychologists available to us as well,” says Merritt. 

As for physical health, they have a yoga program to get them moving. 

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