Get to know your local paramedics and what they do

Sound the sirens, May 22 to 28 is National Paramedic Services Week and it’s a time to celebrate all things EMS.

York Region Paramedic Services has plenty of public events planned to mark this year’s awareness week – the 17th hosted by the organization.

On May 28, the emergency service will be showing off their vehicles and hosting live CPR demonstrations at the Upper Canada Mall in Newmarket all day long. The event, which was held at the Markville Shopping Centre last year, lets the public see EMS vehicles up close and meet many of the 545 regional paramedics in person.

Though getting an inside look at the tools of the trade is exciting, Paramedic Services Week has a more serious mission. It’s a time to celebrate all paramedics do for their communities and learn more about the essential emergency service.

“Our goal is… to show the public that we’re there for them and we’re able to respond and help them in a multitude of ways not just in a 911 call,” said Chris Spearen, deputy chief of performance and development for York Region Paramedic Services.

“To have them look to us as a resource for information, for medical treatment… for public safety as well.”

Spearen said so many people are unsure about exactly how paramedics can help in an emergency situation and think the first responders are only good for a ride to the hospital.

“I think the biggest misconception is that we just show up when 911 is called, we pick people up and take them to the hospital and that’s it,” said Spearen, adding paramedics are health professionals who can start medical treatment when doctors or nurses aren’t available.

“Probably years ago that’s what we were, but in the last several years there’s been a lot of work on how paramedics can work differently in the community.”

Spearen said York Region paramedics are expanding their scope of practice to include in-home help for patients managing chronic diseases. The emergency service providers are also striving to become health and safety stewards by launching public education campaigns and being more visible in the community than ever before.

“Our goal is to make our communities healthy and safer and really just highlight the skills that the paramedics have and what they bring to the healthcare table,” said Spearen.

To help spread their healthcare message, York Region Paramedic Services is going digital. The organization has dived headfirst into social media and is using online platforms to reach as many people as they can.

“We have the ability to engage a lot of people through social media and that’s something we’ve focused on,” said Spearen. “It’s been very positive.”

On May 25, the paramedics will be on Periscope and Twitter, taking live questions from the public. The 4 p.m. ‘Ask a Medic’ broadcast is the second time the emergency service has used the live online tool to interact with the community they serve.

“People are going to have an opportunity to put questions to paramedics and see what they do in terms of their education, their training, skills and the recruitment process,” said Spearen.

“Hopefully we’ll get some good engagement on this event.”

For updates on public events in your area, follow York Region Paramedic Services on Twitter @YorkParamedics or search the hashtag #PSWeek2016.