By Andrea Arnold
Rodger Peterson – McBride
Rodger Peterson joined the McBride Ambulance crew 30 years ago. He was operating a real estate office on Main Street, but wanted to serve the community in another capacity.
“I was approached by the Unit Chief at the time, Bill Arnold,” said Peterson. “He said ‘Have I got a job for you!’”
Peterson quickly fit into the role. He doesn’t remember any moments where he questioned the decision. He credits Arnold for instilling this confidence.
“He provided enough guidance to prepare for rough bumps. He showed how to smooth them out and lead by example.”
Following Arnold’s retirement and the departure of Norm Marian, the station’s second unit chief, Peterson took on the role of Unit Chief, on call.
His interactions with community members prior to his ambulance work provided him with invaluable connections and local knowledge.
“It helps people feel comfortable approaching me with questions.”
His familiarity with the valley also allowed him to find comfort in knowing the other players during an emergency situation.
The McBride Ambulance crew has a tight working relationship with the fire department, police as well as the community leaders. Peterson acknowledges the importance of supporting each other—not only between areas of specialty, but also between crew members.
“If you have a partner working with you, you can get through the challenging calls,” he said. He sees the small crew as a second family and values the relationships he has built through their shared experiences.
“You can’t do it alone,” he said.
Peterson has experienced cross coverage from both sides. When called to serve in other communities he has felt welcomed into other crew “families.” He tries to extend the same to attendants arriving in McBride to provide support.
Working with the ambulance met Peterson’s expectations as a way to serve the community. His desire to serve has not wavered, and has helped him climb the ladder to his newest title(s) of Unit Chief, Community Paramedic and Scheduled on Call.
During the provincial transition to a new scheduling system in Fall 2021, the multi titled position was advertised province wide and Peterson was the successful candidate.
Peterson wanted to continue building his capacity to serve the valley.
“Knowing I am helping people,” he said. “That has not changed. With that being the focus it has been a natural evolution to train, provide service and support the community.”
The Community Paramedic role is quite different from the other ways Peterson has served.
“We (the CP’s) provide more in-depth community support, different from responding to situations,” he said. “It is allowing me to assist community members in a way that hasn’t been available to me before. I am really enjoying it”
The new position is also providing Peterson with a more steady schedule than what he had previously, a perk he appreciates.
Peterson believes that most people within the service have had a mentor along their professional development journey.
“I was fortunate to have Bill,” he said “His focus was to help the community, and he was successful. I learned a lot from him.”
Peterson has come a long way from a real estate agent who served as a part-time ambulance attendant.
“When you know you are going to work the next day and you have a smile on your face, that is a good job,” he said. “This job does that for me.”
Derek McClure – Valemount
By Andrea Arnold
Valemount Ambulance Unit Chief and Community Paramedic Derek McClure has been serving B.C. residents through emergency response for 30 years. Although his location has changed several times, his desire to serve and his gratitude at the opportunity to serve has not.
“I can’t believe I am paid to help people,” said McClure. “I am very fortunate and proud to have been a part of the ambulance service. I am lucky to be the one to help in an emergency. Winning the race is making the patient more comfortable and helping the family (or friends) be less upset.”
McClure worked in the trucking industry when a friend suggested he join British Columbia Emergency Health Services. Initially, McClure rejected the suggestion.
“I remember making the comment, you must see terrible things.”
However, after a friend’s tragic passing and being faced with a transitional time in his life, he decided to take some courses and step into the world of emergency services.
His career started in Chetwynd. It was there, after a particularly rough call, as the four paramedics debriefed over breakfast, that he realized maybe he was cut out for the job after all.
“It dawned on me that through the whole experience that morning, It never once crossed my mind that what I was seeing was a ‘terrible thing.’ We did what we were trained to do, and did our best to help.”
He lived in Cranbrook as well before landing in the Lower Mainland where he joined the dispatch centre. He gained more responsibility as the Superintendent of operations in the Lower Mainland overseeing the dispatch centre and patient safety investigations.
“We would look into how service could improve,” said McClure. “For example, better ways to quickly identify medications, or where more lights could be added in the ambulance.”
A few years ago, when McClure retired from full-time service from a Vancouver station, he took on a government job that placed him in Valemount.
“I was never a small town boy,” said McClure. “I grew up in the city and that’s all I’d known. I was not an outdoorsy person at all.”
The job left McClure with a lot of free time and he was looking for a way to add value to this downtime.
“I stopped by the station, and asked if they could use help,” he said. After only a few weeks of retirement, McClure quickly settled back into the world of community service. He found himself not just adapting to small town life, but loving it.
“After being here for about a year, I traveled south to visit my son in the city,” he said. “I wasn’t truly comfortable until I was north of Kamloops on my way home. Leaving behind the hustle and bustle of the city, returning to the slower and simple lifestyle I’d come to love. The things that made me uncomfortable when I first moved here had started to make it home. It is beautiful and peaceful.”
He feels very fortunate to have had the opportunity to help people for so many years in different capacities alongside so many others. McClure can not single out a favorite position he has held. The joy he gets from the job is the ability to help people while being a part of a team.
McClure is proud of all the people he has worked with.
“People see the ones in uniform,” he said. “There are thousands behind the scenes supporting. I am so blessed to be a part of that team.”
He does not take lightly all of the good things he has seen in the middle of emergency situations.
Through his experiences, one thing he has observed is the genuine kindness of strangers. He says he is often overwhelmed when they come onto a scene and see strangers helping strangers on the side of the road, in a store, or any other incident site.
He has recently added the title of Community Paramedic to his resume alongside the Unit Chief responsibilities. He says he is enjoying it as a way he can continue serving in another capacity.
“I get as much out of it as the clients do,” said McClure.