Valemount station Acting Unit Chief Ryan Howard and recruitment coordinator Michael Saat are hoping to spread the word about how rewarding a career can be in the ambulance service. They also note that new EMRs are paid $29 an hour after just a 3-4 week course. /LAURA KEIL

By Laura Keil

In a bid to recruit more members to the ambulance service, BC Emergency Health Services recruitment coordinator Michael Saat says they are actively working on getting EMR courses taught in more high schools around the province.

The EMR course is typically a 3-week course taken by prospective members of the BC Ambulance Service, soon to be a 4-week course due to the Province increasing the scope of practice of EMRs. Saat says the EMR course has been converted into high school curriculum and is available through the Ministry of Education. Some 120 Port Alberni high schoolers have graduated from the course, and 18 of them are now working in the ambulance service.

The benefit to BCEHS is clear, and for students it provides a certification they can use in the ambulance service or in industry.

“Not only do they get credit to graduate, they also come away with an EMR license – whether they work for us or not.”

On Thurs. Nov. 23rd Saat and Acting Valemount Unit Chief Ryan Howard spoke to high schoolers about the ambulance service as a rewarding and relatively simply-to-access career.

Saat says recent changes to their contracts mean better pay and more flexibility.

For instance, the $12/hour stipend to carry the pager is added to their regular wage if they get a call. Every call receives four hours of regular pay. So an EMT would receive their regular wage (which starts at $29.48/hour and goes up to $36.47/hour after 3 years) plus $12/hour for that 4-hour period.

The minimum pay during each 12-hour on-call shift is $144, and the maximum is potentially much higher depending on the number of calls.

Saat says the high school curriculum model would first involve training high school teachers as EMR instructors and would involve a small fee from students – around $400 – which is about a quarter of the regular price. The dual credit course would provide high school credits towards graduation as well as an EMR license.

According to the Alberni District Secondary School website, students “are introduced to essential concepts of emergency medicine and establish a basic foundation in medical terminology, human anatomy, physiology, pharmacology and clinical science.” The school website says the skills and training attained through the EMR course meet and exceed occupational first aid training and employment opportunities for licensed Emergency Medical Responders may include Ambulance services, Fire and Rescue services, Occupational or Industrial first aid settings and more.

Emergency Management BC is facing an ambulance staff shortage in many communities around the Province.

Many current ambulance staff believe if people knew about the pay and flexible shift schedule more people would apply.

“There’s a great career package and lifelong learning,” Howard says.