Fourteen students in Bathurst are taking a paramedic course after complaints in northern New Brunswick about the lack of French-speaking paramedics.
The course is being offered by Medavie Health Ed and it is the first time since 2002 that the paramedic course has been conducted completely in French.
Mark Fournier, the facilitator in the primary care paramedic course, said it is critical for paramedics be able to communicate with their patients.
“One of the reasons why we're offering it in the north is there's quite a demand for French paramedics,” Fournier said.
There have been complaints in northeastern New Brunswick about the language skills of some paramedics.
In October, a family in Grande-Anse, said a team of two paramedics showed up to a call and neither spoke French. The family, meanwhile, didn’t speak English.
“We were actually approached by the governing ambulance body to bring in some French paramedics, to have the course in French so if we train people in the paramedic course in French, then they would stay up north and be able to deal with French patients,” Fournier said.
An email from Ambulance New Brunswick on Monday confirmed the organization would like to boost the number of bilingual paramedics in northern New Brunswick.
Before the students stepped into the classroom, they faced a rigorous selection process, which included an admission test and panel interviews.
The 10-month course will begin with six months of classwork to give the future paramedics a solid theoretical foundation.
Then the students will have hands-on clinical training at a hospital and in an ambulance with a preceptor.
The students could be on the road as paramedics as early as next fall.
Many of these students enrolled in the paramedics course commuting from the Acadian peninsula to Bathurst for their classes.
Melanie LeBlanc, however, has travelled from southern New Brunswick to take the course in her first language.
She said she had her heart set on taking the course in French.
Another student said he was drawn to the program because of the lure of full-time work.
“Because we live in a region where there's no full time jobs, not as much, we always get seasonal jobs so in this way I get a more secure financial plan,” he said.