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Paramedic Services Week marked in Simcoe County as Georgian College invests in paramedic programming

Simcoe County Paramedics' 20th annual Toy Drive accepts toys, food and gift cards. Nov. 22, 2022 (CTV NEWS/MIKE ARSALIDES) Simcoe County Paramedics' 20th annual Toy Drive accepts toys, food and gift cards. Nov. 22, 2022 (CTV NEWS/MIKE ARSALIDES)

As the country marks Paramedic Services Week, one of Simcoe County's most prominent colleges is celebrating a significant investment in its paramedic program.

Georgian College has unveiled an approximately $50,000 investment in its paramedic program, adding a state-of-the-art training vehicle equipped just like ambulances used daily on the road.

"So this training vehicle is paramount to that because not only do they learn how to drive the vehicle, how to operate it, the safety components of operating an emergency vehicle and all the patient care equipment that we have in it, the students actually get to drive it as well," said Randi McDermott, the program coordinator for the college.

The college has a strong working relationship with the County of Simcoe paramedics division, says the chief of paramedic services. Sarah Mills says it's critical that the two work together to increase staffing by keeping graduates in the community.

"It's shown that students that go to school in the communities end up living here, and we want to build Simcoe County as well as bring in great new workforce," said Mills.

 Mills has only been in the top job for less than a year. She says recruitment ranks amongst the top challenges as paramedicine faces staffing shortages like much of the healthcare sector.

"We're working on a lot of county initiatives to recruit and retain our employees," said Mills. "We want to bring new people in, but we also want to keep our current employees healthy and happy and safe in their environments."

Mills has been a paramedic since 2002. She says she was drawn to the profession by her desire to give back to the community.

"I wanted to be able to help people when they needed it the most, and that really drove me into this and then throughout my career from the frontline, I decided to change course and get into my current job so that I could help the frontline staff and make their work environment better."

The service offers various mental health initiatives and peer support teams to help maintain its existing workforce.

Students studying at Georgian College learn about the profession's significant impacts on them, focusing on both the physical and mental health implications. While 42 students are accepted to the two-year program each Fall, only about 30 graduate.

"Not only is the profession of paramedicine hard on your physical body, it's hard on your mental body as well," said McDermott from Georgian College. "So we do our best to try and prepare our students as novice, entry to practice paramedics and give them as robust an experience we can so that they are prepared to enter the profession."

The program does have a 100 per cent employment rate, a number that has risen over the last few years.

"It was definitely very challenging, but it definitely prepares you for what you do see on the road," said Kenzie Wigney, a recent graduate of the program who now works in the field as a paramedic.

Wigney says the program is realistic and says having tools like the new state-of-the-art training ambulance-like vehicle is critical.

"In one of these training, you spent 2 to 3 hours a week and more if you applied yourself and went to your open labs, you could spend 6 to 8 hours a week in the trucks," said Wigney.

While there are challenges every day, the County's paramedic chief says she's incredibly proud of the teamwork exhibited daily.

"When we talk about Paramedic Services Week, it's so important to recognize the resilience our staff show, the dedication to their jobs and how important they are to the communities that they serve," said Mills. Top Stories

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