Why would someone say that these are exciting times for Paramedics? Some would say it seems like a foolish
thought. Maybe this is the time that paramedics should reconsider the future?
The profession of paramedicine has struggled on issues surrounding our knowledge, skills and health and
wellness for literally decades both within our own circles and externally. When it comes to voice, there are
pockets of influence that at times gain bits of traction, but they often spin out and lose ground until the next
perceived big event, where once again, our small voice speaks out but gets lost by the larger voices that occur
from others health professionals.
The recent announcement from our Premier, Danielle Smith and the Minister of Health, Adriana LaGrange
has opened a window of opportunity for a moment in time where paramedics across the province can have
their voices heard among the larger voices of nurses and physicians. Both the Premier and the Minister have
recognized the paramedic profession in their communications to Albertans and have announced coming
changes that are on the horizon within our health system.
Have you heard that when a tree falls in the woods and there’s no one around, does it make a sound? The
short answer, aside from the philosophical perspective is, yes it does, but the fact is that the lone tree’s
sound (voice) gets lost within the rest of the trees as they absorb the sound, cancelling the lone tree like it
seem like it never happened, or the sound is lost before it can get to the outside world.
Physicians have the Alberta Medical Association (AMA), Nurses have the Alberta Association of Nurses
(AAN), the Nurse Practitioners have the Nurse Practitioner Association of Alberta (NPAA) and they are strong
and dedicated. Whether you’re already a member, or you’re a non-believer, or you are simply on the outside
looking in because you don’t know, paramedics have access to the Alberta Paramedic Association (APA). Stay
with me! This is important!
Paramedics, and this includes ACP’s, PCP, EMR’s and Students, need a voice among the other professions in
healthcare. I was shown a social media post the other day where someone commented on the recent
provincial announcement and asked, “who’s representing paramedics?”. Can you see the problem? The APA
has been criticized for numerous items from the profession including political perspectives, insurance
communication posts, lack of communication, historical perspective and even comments attacking dress
attire that didn’t meet a perceived standard. Could this criticism be distractors?
The Association is fluid and changes with time. Instead of being part of the solution, we expect miracles to
occur. Some believe with the wave of a magic wand that the paramedic world, our world, will miraculously
change. There’s are some who believe that the APA shouldn’t speak or even work with people who have
different perspectives or work with decision makers that can make change because of a perceived alignment
of a political nature. Yes, I’m talking about NDP, UCP or Liberal political groups to mention the mainstream
There is also criticism about money spent to be part of an association. We would rather purchase liability
insurance endorsed by the regulatory college to avoid perceived spending of supposed worthless fees rather
than build a place of unity or strength. Let me share some facts. The APA charges $125 for a membership.
From that $67 goes towards individual liability insurance, leaving $58 to work with. When you divide $58 into
12 months of the year, that’s a cost per month is $4.83. If you divide that $58 into weeks (52) that’s a cost of
$1.12 per week. Out of the $58/year, $7 goes toward the Paramedic Association of Canada (PAC), so APA
members can also be part of the national association which can influence the profession of paramedicine at a
federal level and/or be used towards the development of items such as the National Occupancy Profile which
directs paramedic education across Canada. So really the APA uses that $51 that is left over to build,
influence, provide a voice in Alberta, work with government, and create a sustainable HELP fund to achieve
an overarching focus to progress your professional knowledge, skills and health and wellness. That’s less than
$1 per week to support your profession moving forwards.
The founders of the APA believed that the association should not be fronted off the backs of working
paramedics, and it’s not. People volunteer in positions because they believe in the profession, and they work
towards correcting wrong doings and struggles that it’s members (and even non-members) encounter.
The NPAA is making huge wins in the province because they are united and have worked hard on their voice.
In the recent announcements posted by the province, the APA words of support for change were placed next
to the nurse practitioners under the heading of “Primary Care” which is significant. Think about our
profession. We are often referred to as “EMS” or “Community Care”, but we not often referred to as
“paramedics”. Can you imagine a world of paramedics as part of multi-disciplinary teams working along side
other professions in acute care or primary care? I have heard this past year that paramedics are the “Swiss
Army Knife of Health Care”. We bring a magnitude of knowledge to the table along with diverse skill sets. Yes,
we will always most likely have traditional roles of EMS and now community care, but can you also imagine
opportunities to work along side other professions in operating rooms, emergency departments, continuing
care environments, primary care and mental health facilities to name a few?
We need to reset our way of thinking. The APA is not magic, nor is it the same as when it was first started.
Even so, those leaders did the best they could with what they had…and what they had was really nothing
other than vision. If you do any research at all on start up organizations, you’ll find it takes a lot of dedication
to start something out of nothing. We should thank them for that vision.
So, is it a foolish thought to believe that these are exciting times for paramedics? Not really once we consider
the changes that are happening around us; what we can do as a group; and who’s now listening. With that in
mind, what must happen to get us into a future state of a diverse group with unified voices?
- Re-examine our messaging. Messaging can bring us together or divide us. The new health model can
be positive. The APA is not perfect, we have no magic wand. Leadership overall is never perfect.
However, if we follow basic principles under a common goal, we can make things better for
paramedics. Start a conversation.
- Current members of the APA should attend the AGM on December 1, 2023, and become involved.
There are current leadership opportunities so take on a role. We need your skills and time to build.
Attend the AGM
- Non-APA members within the profession are encouraged re-examine their options. The APA would
like you to come on board now and bring your Swiss Army Knives. Help the voices travel through
the forest. We’ll do everything we can to listen and engage you and take action to spread the
message, plus more hands will lighten the workload. Become a Member
- Set a goal of two years to solidify our profession as an extra value to the health system.
November’s announcement is the biggest change since the inception of AHS in 2009. Let’s get in
front of it and not waste it. Failure could mean literally decades before an opportunity arises again.
The APA has the infrastructure already here. It needs some polishing but it’s here. This is the time to come
together and build our professional future. You can make a difference!
Len Stelmaschuk, ACP, MAL